Matteo Renzi returns

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By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters
Matteo Renzi returns

Former prime minister Matteo Renzi has bounced back into the forefront of national politics in Italy.

He has been reinstated as leader of the governing Democratic Party (PD) after being elected in a primary a week ago.

The numbers

Renzi won 70.01 percent of the votes in the internal party ballot, according to the final results.

However, at 1.85 million, turnout was well down on the 2.8 million who voted in his successful campaign of 2013.

What’s the background to this?

Matteo Renzi regained the leadership of the governing Democratic Party (PD) last Sunday, by a significant margin in the primary election among party supporters.

Justice Minister Andrea Orlando and the governor of the southern region of Puglia were also on the ballot paper.

How long is it since Renzi was prime minister?

Five months.

The 42-year-old resigned as prime minister in December after a crushing defeat in a referendum over constitutional reforms aimed at streamlining the political system.

He was replaced by his foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni.

However, analysts think Renzi quickly began to plan a comeback.

How is the PD doing in the polls?

Research suggests it has slipped behind the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Polls show 5-Star now has around 30 percent of the vote and a lead of between three and eight percentage points over the PD.

It comes after a dispute between Renzi’s loyalists and left-wing traditionalists caused a party split in February.

What about Renzi’s personal rating?

Some say he has become a divisive figure and there is no guarantee he would be named prime minister of a future coalition government even if the PD were to win the most votes during the upcoming election.

While he remains the most popular politician among PD voters, his and the party’s appeal look much weaker than during his time as prime minister.

His current personal approval rating is about half of the 50 percent he posted three years ago, according to the Ixe polling insitute.

This could be due to his failure to convert his ambitious reform agenda into reality.

However, under Italy’s proportional representation voting system, no party currently looks likely to win enough seats in parliament to govern alone.