New PD leader Epifani popular with party's voters

Former trade unionist to lead division-hit party till congress

New PD leader Epifani popular with party's voters

(see related stories on polls, political situation) Rome, May 17 - Guglielmo Epifani, the new caretaker leader of the Democratic Party (PD), has the approval of 58% of the division-hit centre-left party's voters, a poll by the SWG research agency said Friday. The 63-year-old former trade unionist's approval rating was much lower with voters as a whole though, at 23%. Last weekend a PD assembly gave Epifani the job of trying to keep the party united until a permanent leader is elected at a congress later this year. The PD has been without a leader since Pier Luigi Bersani quit as secretary last month after internal revolts sank two candidates he had proposed to be Italian president. The PD came first in February's general election but failed to win a working majority in the Senate after Bersani conducted a colourless campaign. After Bersani stepped down, the party reluctantly entered into a pact with its long-standing foe, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party. This enabled Bersani's former deputy, Premier Enrico Letta, to form an unprecedented left-right government and end two months of deadlock. Epifani is the ex-socialist former head of Italy's largest trade union confederation, the left-wing CGIL.

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