Italy PM Letta quits as rival persuades party it is time for change

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Italy PM Letta quits as rival persuades party it is time for change

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Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta is standing down after members of his own party overwhelmingly backed a young challenger’s call for him to quit.

Under pressure over the slow pace of economic reform, Letta chose not to attend Thursday afternoon’s crunch meeting of his ruling centre-left Democratic Party.

But his fate was sealed when leaders of the party, the main force in Italy’s coalition, approved his arch-rival’s Matteo Renzi’s call for a change in government by 136 votes to 16.

On Friday, Letta will go to see President Giorgio Napolitano to tender his resignation.

A low-key moderate, Letta was appointed to lead the cross-party coalition patched together after last year’s deadlocked elections.

He has been in difficulty since Renzi was elected party leader in December. Pressure intensified this week when powerful lobbies including Italy’s main industry association Confindustria joined calls for faster action on reforms.

Renzi, 39, has been locked in a power struggle with the now outgoing prime minister for weeks.

If he does, as expected, replace Letta in the top job, Renzi, the Mayor of Florence, will be Italy’s third unelected prime minister in succession.

His key task will be to revive the euro zone’s third-largest economy which is struggling to emerge from its worst slump since the Second World War.