Italy’s center-left Democratic Party has elected former Prime Minister Enrico Letta as party leader as it seeks to forge a new political identity within Mario Draghi’s new government of national unity.
Letta’s appointment marks an unlikely political comeback for an academic who retired from frontline politics after serving as Italian Prime Minister between 2013 and 2014, when he was ousted in a coup. State.
It also makes the PD the last Italian political force to move towards a more centrist and experienced leadership since Draghi entered the political arena two months ago.
The once anti-Euro Five Star Movement has asked former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to oversee a party revival, making him a standby leader.
The League has remained loyal to its leader Matteo Salvini, but ditched its old Euroscepticism to join Draghi’s unity government, with moderate, business-friendly League politicians taking on important cabinet roles.
In one podcast interview with the Financial Times earlier this month, Letta noted how the 2018 election produced the most Eurosceptic parliament in postwar history, but now the League and Five Star were both considering joining the major pan-European political families.
“Today, what is happening in Italy is a miracle,” he said.
The PD is the third largest party supporting the Draghi government. He was shaken by the sudden resignation of its former leader Nicola Zingaretti soon after the current government was formed.
Zingaretti’s exit, which he says was sparked by internal party feuds over positions in the new cabinet, paved the way for an unlikely return for Letta, who lived in Paris and worked as an academic.
On Sunday, Letta was elected largely unopposed by delegates – winning 860 votes, with two against and four abstentions. He delivered a resolutely pro-European speech calling on the party to fight for more female leadership and increase youth participation.
“We have to be the party of young people,” he said. “If we fail to involve young people, I will have failed in my goals.”
Letta had left the PD and resigned as Italian MP shortly after being ousted from his post as Italian Prime Minister by Matteo Renzi in 2014 in an internal power struggle within the party.
Letta said on Sunday he would seek to fight in the next election, slated for 2023, in alliance with other parties, hinting that this could involve Five Star. He was open to a coalition with all left-wing parties in the Italian parliament, including Italia Viva, a party led by Renzi, his former enemy.
“We must build a new center-left, under the initiative and leadership of the PD. I will speak to everyone in the coming weeks, ”he said.
Letta also said he would push to extend voting in Italy to 16-year-olds, as well as to reform Italian citizenship rules to allow all people born in Italy to receive citizenship automatically.