Florence Mayor Renzi Resists Calls to Fill Italy Leadership Void

Matteo Renzi, Italy’s most popular politician not to run in this week’s election, resisted calls to step forward and fill a leadership void after an inconclusive result brought no clear path to forming a government.

“I said what I wanted for Italy in the primaries,” Renzi, the mayor of Florence, said on Twitter today, referring to his failed campaign in December to lead a democratic party-led coalition of parties. “I lost. Now I’m working as mayor. We can’t allow ourselves any regret.”

Renzi, 38, was pushed to the sidelines by Pier Luigi Bersani, the ex-communist whose labor-union ties propelled him to victory three months ago in the primary. Renzi may consider taking a leadership role if President Giorgio Napolitano asked him to form a government, Corriere della Sera, Italy’s best-selling newspaper, reported today.

The speculation prompted commentary from rival politicians, while Renzi said in a Facebook posting that he was reading “incredible interpretations” about him, without specifying what he was referring to.

“Renzi, whose only credential is being a career politician with nothing worthwhile to show for it, is now a candidate for premier,” Beppe Grillo, the ex-comic whose party became the third largest force in Italy’s lower house of parliament after the Feb. 24-25 elections, said in a posting on his blog. “But didn’t he lose the primaries?”

Policy Clash

Renzi was identified by pollster EMG in November as the most popular candidate among the electorate at large, yet his policies clashed with those of Bersani, 61. Renzi pushed for a generational change in Italian politics and stressed budget rigor, while Bersani said he planned to ease the reforms imposed by outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti.

Bersani, who led in opinion polls throughout the two-month campaign, failed to gain control of parliament as former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Grillo won blocking minorities in the Senate. Bersani, in an interview with La Repubblica today, said he would present himself as a premier candidate and ruled out a broad coalition with Berlusconi’s forces.

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