ROME Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Friday accused 13 senators from his own party of seeking "15 minutes of fame" after they withdrew their backing for an overhaul of the political system, and pledged to push ahead with reforms.
While Renzi was on a state trip in Asia on Wednesday, the Democratic Party (PD) senators rebelled against his plan to replace the Senate as an elected chamber with one made up of mayors, regional councillors and presidential appointees.
Since taking office in February, Renzi has said the Senate slows the legislative process and is a financial drain. His proposal would curb its powers so it would not be needed to pass most major legislation and it could not bring down the government in a confidence vote.
The 13 senators, who assure the government majority in the upper house of parliament, said they were "suspending themselves" from the party and accused Renzi of authoritarian tactics at odds with the constitution.
"This isn't a dictatorship," Renzi told reporters after a cabinet meeting. "But we want to be decisive and get things done."
Renzi said the PD could not become "anarchic" and that the senators were seeking their "15 minutes of fame".
After winning more than 40 percent of the vote in last month's European vote largely on his personal popularity, Renzi said: "We're not here to scrape by."
The senators did not say they would leave the PD itself and their action was seen more as a warning shot to Renzi than an immediate threat to his government's survival.
Though Renzi pushed has through a popular cut in income tax for low earners, he has struggled to get other promised reforms through parliament.
To back up his stated intention to push on with the reforms, Renzi said his government agreed to send to parliament a plan to overhaul Italy's famously inefficient public administration, and gave powers to a new anti-corruption commissioner.
In a decree, the prime minister said 15,000 new jobs in the public administration would be created for young people by enforcing a retirement age limit, and he reaffirmed his pledge to begin reforms of the justice, welfare and school systems in the coming months.
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Alison Williams)