Italy’s new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has some big shoes to fill, and even bigger problems to fix. Sworn into office this weekend, he inherits a slow party coalition, a government plagued by corruption, and an economy stuck in recession.
Italy’s youngest Prime Minister since Benito Mussolini, Renzi faces the lowest drop in GDP at almost 10% since the financial crisis 6 years ago. That’s higher than any other substantial economy.On top of that, Italy’s income per head is at it’s lowest point since before it joined the European Union currency in 1999.
Renzi has chosen to combat these massive problems with even larger promises for reform. He promises to enact a new employment law in March, to streamline Italy’s administration in April, and to overhaul the tax system in May.
Leader of Italy’s Center-Left Democratic Party, Renzi’s route to power was a bit unorthodox. Enrico Letta was the party’s original leader and choice candidate for Prime Minister, but Renzi knifed Letta in the back and stole the spotlight by speaking out against him. In doing so he was nicknamed “Il Rottamatore”, or the Scrapper, by the Center-Left.
The negative repercussions of this coup have yet to materialize, but many Italians are unhappy with Renzi’s crafty move. and the Center-Left party itself is uneasy with his direct disobedience of their wishes.
No matter the effect this may have on his ratings, Renzi is a force to be reckoned with. Hands down Italy’s most popular politician today, he stands the best chance at uniting the people with the government again. But with no former experience in Parliament, he may not know how to do so. His only previous political experience is his term as Florence’s mayor.
Renzi claims his rookie experience as a virtue, saying he has had no part in the corrupt politics that surrounded his predecessor, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He certainly has taken a different approach to the office, choosing a cabinet made up half of woman and all low profile figures.
He’s also received a lot of attention from Europe’s leaders as well. Before even being elected Prime Minister, Renzi met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on her request.
Britain’s former Prime Minister Tony Blair endorsed Renzi issuing a statement saying, “Matteo has the dynamism, creativity, and toughness to succeed.”
Hopefully, Renzi can harness his charisma and power to face down the $2.75 trillion Italy has amassed in government debt. His ambition may be the missing stimulus Italy’s predecessors lacked.