Italy profile

President: Giorgio Napolitano

Giorgio Napolitano President Giorgio Napolitano has been a stabilising influence on Italian political life

Giorgio Napolitano was re-elected as president of Italy in April 2013 - the first time in the history of the Italian republic that an incumbent president had been voted in to serve a second term.

The 87-years-old Mr Napolitano had previously signalled that he was keen to retire and had ruled himself out as a candidate, but after five rounds of voting failed to elect a new president, he was prevailed upon to stand as a consensus candidate in the sixth round.

Mr Napolitano's re-election came in the wake of an inconclusive parliamentary election in February 2013 that gave rise to protracted negotiations over the new government.

During this period, the president came to be seen as a guarantor of stability, although some saw Mr Napolitano's re-election as a further sign of political stagnation.

Giorgio Napolitano began his first term of office in May 2006, when he was sworn in as Italy's 11th post-war president. The former member of the Italian Communist Party was among the leading architects of the party's transformation into a social democratic movement.

The Italian president heads the armed forces and has powers to veto legislation, disband parliament and call elections.

Prime Minister: Matteo Renzi

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi speaking in the Chamber of Deputies ahead of a confidence vote in his new government on 24 February 2014 Mr Renzi believes Italian politics need a radical overhaul

Matteo Renzi became the youngest prime minister in modern Italian history after triggering the ousting of his fellow centre-left Democratic Party (PD) colleague Enrico Letta in February 2014.

Mr Renzi came to power with a programme of rapid economic and political reform, including tax cuts, investment in jobs and removing law-making powers from the upper house, the Senate.

Unusually, the PD leader was not a member of parliament when President Giorgio Napolitano nominated him to form a government, but the outgoing mayor of his native Florence.

Mr Letta had resigned after only a year as prime minister after the PD voted in favour of an urgent change of government to push through reforms.

The showdown came after Mr Renzi, who was elected the party's leader in December 2013, called for "profound change" to get Italy "out of the quagmire".

Born in 1975, Mr Renzi presents himself as a radical break from the past in both style and policy, and his rise has been widely hailed as heralding an overdue generational change.

His calls for the entire Italian political establishment - seen by many Italians as corrupt and discredited - to be swept away has earned him the moniker Il Rottamatore ("The Scrapper").

He wants to move the PD to the centre and to reach out to new voters, leading to frequent comparisons with Tony Blair, the similarly centrist former social democratic prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Apart from the PD, Mr Renzi's new government includes several smaller centrist parties.

After inconclusive elections held in the middle of a deep recession, Mr Renzi's predecessor, Enrico Letta, in April 2013 needed a broad partnership with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservatives, as well as centrists led by former prime minister Mario Monti, to form a government.

The coalition at first appeared to pave the way for yet another political comeback for Mr Berlusconi, who was forced to resign in 2011 as Italy slid deeper into the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis.

But in August 2013, the Supreme Court upheld a custodial sentence for Mr Berlusconi in the first of a series of criminal convictions. The former prime minister, who dominated Italian politics for decades, was expelled from parliament later in the year.x

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