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Italy's President gauges support for new government under Renzi

Italy's president is meeting political party delegations to see if there is enough support for the mayor of Florence to lead a new national government. A decision could be made over the weekend.

President Giorgio Napolitano is in the process of talking to more than a dozen political party delegations over the weekend. The aim is to see if Democratic Party leader and current Mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi has enough support to form a new coalition government.

Only the Five Star (M5S) movement of Beppe Grillo, a former comedian, and the separatist Northern League party led by Matteo Salvini have refused Napolitano's invitation to consult on a new leader. The League protested the irregular transition of power that bypassed a vote of confidence in parliament.

On Thursday, former prime minister Enrico Letta was forced to resign after his Democratic Party (PD) national committee backed a motion put forward by Renzi calling for a new government capable of opening "a new phase" of reform and pulling the eurozone's third-largest economy "out of the quagmire."

The 88-year-old Napolitano started consultations on Friday and continued on Saturday with a schedule that included appointments with former premier Silvio Berlusconi, head of the Forza Italia party. Although Berlusconi lost his Senate seat as a result of his conviction for tax fraud, he remains an influential leader of his party. He is due to meet with the DP delegation on Saturday evening.

Napolitano ruled out snap elections as parliament is currently discussing a new electoral law. While Renzi said, if appointed prime minister, he would wish to stay in office until 2018, pressure for new elections would mount if the law were to be passed within the next few weeks.

The 39-year-old Renzi, nicknamed Il Rottamatore or "the scrapper," has never stood in national elections. He has already spent 20 years in politics and would become the youngest premier in the country's modern history. He has promised a radical programm of reforms to reduce unemployment, boost growth and tackle problems of excessive bureaucracy.

jm/dr (AFP, AP)

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