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Napolitano accepts Letta's resignation as Italian prime minister

Napolitano accepts Letta's resignation as Italian prime minister
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The Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has accepted Enrico Letta’s resignation as prime minister, following a meeting at the presidential palace in Rome.

Letta announced on Thursday that he would stand down after a meeting of his Democratic Party (PD) voted in favour of changing the government.

The president is now beginning meetings with political parties to find a solution to the leadership crisis and form a new government. The man expected to take over as prime minister is the new Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi.

There has been growing criticism over the slow pace of economic reform in Italy which had left Letta increasingly isolated.

A low-key moderate, he was appointed in April last year to lead the cross-party coalition patched together after deadlocked elections had brought weeks of fruitless wrangling between rival parties.

Letta did not attend Thursday’s party meeting, which was brought forward from next week.

The centre-left Democratic Party supported Renzi’s call for a more pro-active government to pull Italy out of its economic slump.

The new party leader cited “uncertainty” and “instability” saying Italy could not go on under the current circumstances.

Letta’s decision to resign has been welcomed by centre-right leader Angelino Alfano, whose party is in the governing coalition.

Matteo Renzi, 39, is widely tipped to be the new prime minister. The mayor of Florence is the rising star of the centre-left Democratic Party. He was elected leader in December, which immediately prompted speculation about Letta’s future.

Renzi is young, and seen as dynamic, ambitious, and determined to set a faster tempo for the government.

If Renzi is named prime minister, he will be Italy’s third unelected leader in succession after the technocrat Mario Monti and then Letta.

The country has not had an elected prime minister since Silvio Berlusconi stood down two and a half years ago.

All this comes with the Italian economy in the doldrums. Unemployment is at its highest level in 40 years and the economy has shrunk by 9% in seven years.

Despite the turmoil of recent years, Renzi has said a new government could last till 2018.