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Renzi attacks centre-left stance, irks president

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(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, April 4 - Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, who is
seen as a future centre-left leader, on Thursday reiterated his
criticism of his party's handling of Italy's post-election
political deadlock, saying it should either open talks with
Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right alliance or call for snap
elections.
But Renzi's attack, seen primarily as being directed at
Democratic Party (PD) head Pier Luigi Bersani, instead drew a
response from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.
"Personally, I don't think we are," the head of state said
when asked about Renzi's claim on Wednesday that Italy was
"wasting time" while "the world is asking us to run twice as
fast".
Unlike Napolitano, Bersani, who has rejected Berlusconi's
calls for the PD to form a grand coalition with the ex-premier's
People of Freedom (PdL) party, declined to comment on Renzi's
call for a new approach.
All he said was: "we are here", which was interpreted as
meaning his position has not changed.
This stance has left Bersani, whose alliance came first in
February's general election but failed to win a working majority
in the Senate, unable to form a government as the
anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which holds the balance of
power in the Senate, has rejected his attempts to reach out to
it.
At the weekend Napolitano asked a group of 10
institutional and political figures to try to formulate a
government programme capable of winning cross-party support and
breaking the deadlock.
But there is widespread skepticism about the chances of
success of the so-called 'wise men'.
"The PD has to decide. If Berlusconi is the head of an
unfit party, then let's ask to go and vote immediately," said
Renzi, who is expected to challenge to lead the centre left if
Italy returns to the polls later this year after losing the last
primary to Bersani.
"Our country cannot afford to coast," he told Thursday's
Corriere della Sera. "Either there's an agreement or we vote.
"The prospect of governing with (people like the PdL's
former communications minister Maurizio) Gasparri is scary.
"It's no coincidence that I'm ready for new elections
immediately. But if the PD fears the ballot box, it has to talk
to those who have the numbers (in parliament)," added Renzi, who
was sceptical from the start about Bersani's bid to reach out to
the M5S.
Renzi, a 38-year-old who has frequently been compared to
the young Tony Blair, also pointed out that the Catholic Church
had managed to say goodbye to one pope and elect another in the
time since Italy's election, even though it is no "model of
speed".
PD members were divided over Renzi's criticism of the party
line.
Some PD suggested Renzi was getting ahead of himself.
Renzi is as yet untested nationally and should guard
against being reckless, especially at a sensitive time when
parliamentarians must focus on electing a new president, said
Beppe Fioroni.
"An old proverb says, 'those who can, do - those who can
not, are critics'," added the former education minister.
"Matteo was the standard bearer of renewal... and must
understand that the first renewal is to elect the head of
state".
Napolitano's term ends in on May 15 and his successor must
be elected before them. Part of the problem is that Napolitano
cannot dissolve parliament to hold elections because his powers
are limited in his last six months in office.
But PD vice-chairman Ivan Scalfarotto said in a radio
interview that Renzi was only speaking the truth. If a
government cannot be cobbled together from current
parliamentarians, then it's time for a new vote, he said.
"Renzi wanted to say that the emperor has no clothes,"
added Scalfarotto.

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