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Italian left elects new leader

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Italian left elects new leader

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Italy’s opposition Democratic Party has elected a new leader as it seeks to mount a challenge in June’s European elections.

Dario Franceschini was voted in at a special meeting of the centre-left party’s membership in Rome. He replaces Walter Veltroni, who stood down on Tuesday. Franceschini, who was Veltroni’s deputy, told delegates he intended to be his own man: “I ask nothing and I will not seek the protection of the part leadership,” he said. He added that those who backed him should not expect favours in return. Veltroni resigned after a series of setbacks for the party, in particular defeat in local elections in Sardinia last week. The party was deeply divided over his leadership, with many fearing they would lose more ground to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right bloc in June’s elections. The centre-right’s victory in Sardinia, which had been a stronghold of the left, consolidated Berlusconi’s position of strength across the country.