Renzi Faces Uphill Battle to Italy Premiership After Primary

  • Overwhelming victory for party leadership gives Renzi a boost
  • Next elections due early 2018, Five Star Movement gains ground

Matteo Renzi faces an uphill battle to regain his former post as Italy’s prime minister, despite regaining the leadership of his Democratic Party in a resounding victory.

Renzi took 70 percent of the vote in Sunday’s party primary, with about 1.85 million people casting ballots in a key test before general elections due early next year. He trounced Justice Minister Andrea Orlando with 19.5 percent and Michele Emiliano, governor of the southern Apulia region, with 10.5 percent, according to figures posted on the party’s website at mid-day Monday.

“A completely new story is starting,” Renzi told supporters at a victory rally at party headquarters in Rome late Sunday. “This isn’t the second half of the usual game. This is a whole new game that we must win.”

Renzi addresses the press April 28.

Photographer: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Paolo Gentiloni, a fellow party member who succeeded Renzi as prime minister, called to congratulate him.

While Renzi’s win dominated Italian news reports Monday, the 42-year-old former mayor of Florence may well run into difficulties in the next elections.

Five Star

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which wants a referendum on the euro, has overtaken the Democratic Party as Italy’s most popular force in polls released last month. An April 28 Ixe survey showed Five Star with support from 28.4 percent of likely voters, while the Democratic Party edged up to 27.3 percent support.

The poll also showed 31 percent of those questioned trusted incumbent premier Gentiloni, a reserved former diplomat, 2 percentage points more than those who trusted Renzi.

Renzi resigned as party leader, officially known as its secretary, in February, triggering a battle against minority dissidents who want to adopt a more leftist stand and who criticize him as authoritarian.

Renzi acknowledged at the time that he’d been set back by defeat in the Dec. 4 constitutional referendum, which also led him to quit the prime minister’s post and support Gentiloni as his successor.

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