Rome

Renzi polling twice as high as 'Big 3' leaders

'More than half Italians want Florence mayor to lead PD'

Renzi polling twice as high as 'Big 3' leaders

Rome, April 12 - Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi's popularity is twice that of the three leaders who emerged in a virtual tie from February's inconclusive general election, the SWG polling agency said Friday. Renzi, the rising star of the Democratic Party (PD) that narrowly won the election but failed to get a majority in the Senate, clocked a rating of 56% compared to 27% for centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, the close runner-up, and anti-establishment comedian Beppe Grillo, also on 27%. Grillo's M5S movement holds the balance of power in a hung parliament while Bersani and Berlusconi have been shadow-boxing for 45 days over the ex-premier's proposal for a left-right 'grand coalition'. Renzi's standing has grown since he publicly urged the PD and Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party to strike a deal or go back to the polls, while Bersani has been hurt by a perceived insistence on wanting a precarious PD-led minority government, amid rising tensions within the centre-left party. More than half of Italians, 55%, now want Renzi to take over from Bersani as PD leader, SWG said. Some 40% of PD voters said the same thing. Only 10% of the general electorate and 29% of the party think Bersani, leader of the old guard Renzi has openly campaigned to "scrap", should stay on as PD leader. Amid media speculation the PD might split, Bersani has denied meddling with Tuscan PD voting to deny Renzi a post as one of the electors of the next Italian president starting next Thursday. Party 'old guard' figurehead Massimo D'Alema, an ex-premier, met with Renzi Thursday and said it was a "mistake" to stop the mayor becoming a 'grand elector'. Bersani, D'Alema and Renzi have insisted the PD will not break up. Renzi said Thursday night he would not form his own party and would not leave the PD, "not even if they try to kick me out".

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