Italy's Renzi expected to get nod to form gov't


ROME (AP) -- Matteo Renzi arrived at Italy's presidential palace on Monday where he was widely expected to be asked to form a new government to replace the one he sacked through a power-grab within his own party.

The 39-year-old leader of the Democratic Party drove himself to his meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano, mimicking the down-to-earth approach of his predecessor, Enrico Letta. Letta had shunned a police escort when he was summoned to form a government in April. He did so again last week to hand in his resignation after Renzi orchestrated the mutiny against him.

Assuming Renzi, who is currently the mayor of Florence, gets the nod to form a government, his first challenge will be to form a coalition and present a plan of government that can win votes of confidence in both houses of Parliament. That's no easy task given his aggressive power-grab has alienated even some within his own Democratic Party, not to mention opposition parties.

Outside the Quirinale palace on Monday, the small Italy Brothers center-right movement staged a protest shouting "Elections! Elections!" Party leaders have been incensed that Renzi, who has never served in parliament, is likely to become Italy's next premier without having ever stood for national elections. In fact, he would be the third premier to be appointed without a ballot since 2011.

More importantly, the New Center Right movement of Angelino Alfano, who had served as Letta's deputy premier in the coalition government, has refused to give Renzi his support, saying he wants to see his plan of action before deciding whether to back the government.

The much larger Forza Italia movement of Silvio Berlusconi has said it would remain in opposition, while the upstart, anti-establishment 5 Star Movement of comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo has boycotted the transition process altogether.

Assuming he can cobble enough support, Renzi has to get to the work of kick-starting Italy's economy, creating jobs and enacting sorely needed electoral reforms to make Italy more governable.