Rome

Renzi sees centre left 'in state of shock'

Florence mayor says IMU concessions price of PdL alliance

Renzi sees centre left 'in state of shock'

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, May 20 - Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi on Monday described his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) as being in "shock" after a tumultuous post-election period that led to an unprecedented left-right government. "The PD is a bit in a state of shock," he said, adding that it needed to determine if it were capable of making new proposals or "if its just grinding along". Renzi, a rising star of the PD who has been compared to the young Tony Blair, ran and lost to then PD chief Pier Luigi Bersani in last year's primaries to select the centre-left's premier candidate. Bersani went on to squander a sizeable lead in opinion poles with a colourless campaign and February's election ended in a virtual three-way tie between the PD, ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) of comedian Beppe Grillo. Analysts said that the more centrist Renzi would have had better chance than former Communist Bersani of winning a working majority rather than the inconclusive outcome ultimately led to two months of gridlock, the resignation of Bersani as PD secretary, and a coalition government led by Premier Enrico Letta of the PD that includes high-ranking center-right figures in key posts, such as Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, the PdL secretary. Many see the bipartisan makeup of the current administration as highly volatile, with Berlusconi threatening to bring it down if further measures are not made to eliminate the contested IMU property tax, for example. Speaking at the Turin Book Fair, Renzi said "I hope Letta does well" and shot down suggestions that he will run to lead the PD at a party congress later this year, although he has made no secret of the fact that he wants to become premier one day. Renzi described Letta's concessions on IMU property tax as a political compromise the PD must shoulder to keep the current right-left government coalition together. "Acting on the IMU is the price paid for the alliance with Berlusconi," Renzi said on Italian radio. Letta's cabinet on Friday approved a decree to suspend the June payment of the controversial IMU property tax after weeks of threats from Berlusconi. The PdL has said it will pull its support and sink Letta's executive if it does not scrap IMU and repay 2012 revenues from the tax to respect a key pledge it made in the run-up to February's general election. Letta has not promised to go this far, although he has said the tax will be reformed by September. Although Renzi is Italy's most popular politician after President Giorgio Napolitano, according to opinion polls, he is viewed with suspicion by many within his own party. Some see his drive for the old guard of the Italian politics to be "scrapped" as motivated more by personal ambition than by a desire for real change. PD Secretary Guglielmo Epifani, who is in charge of the party until a permanent leader is selected at the congress, rebutted Renza's comments on IMU. "It is not a gift to anyone but common sense," said Epifani, referring to the fact that reforming IMU was a part of the centre-left platform.

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