* New PD leader Renzi has often criticised government
* Letta, also in PD, heads right-left coalition
* Renzi says next 15 days to be "decisive"
By Steve Scherer
ROME, Jan 12 Italy's centre-left leader Matteo
Renzi said the next two weeks will be "decisive" for Prime
Minister Enrico Letta's government, which has so far struggled
to make incisive reforms.
The government is supported by a broad left-right coalition.
But since the 39-year-old Renzi was elected last month to lead
the Democratic Party (PD) - Letta's own party - he has
frequently criticised the government's choices and called for it
to accelerate institutional and economic reforms.
Italy, one of the world's biggest government debtors, has
narrowly avoided being dragged into the euro zone debt crisis.
"It amazes me that in Rome they don't understand the need to
hurry" with the reforms, Renzi said in an interview with daily
Corriere della Sera. A spokesman confirmed the comments. "The
next 15 days will be decisive."
Italy is the euro zone's third-biggest economy but its
output has not grown since mid-2011. With youth unemployment at
more than 40 percent and the overall jobless rate at record
highs, Italians have taken to the streets to protest against the
government several times in the past month.
While Renzi, who is not a member of the government, said
elections in 2014 "are not the solution," he confirmed Italian
media reports of growing tensions with Letta. The two met
face-to-face on Friday to discuss reforms.
"Enrico doesn't trust me," Renzi said. "But he is wrong. I'm
very honest about things."
Letta heads a compromise government put together after last
year's national election yielded no clear winner, and government
action has often been blocked by a crossfire of vetoes from the
two sides of his bloc.
A new election law is a key reform that has long been stuck
in limbo and whose failings produced last year's deadlock.
Renzi says a new voting law can be agreed by the end of the
month, while Letta has said one should be in place by the end of
April, perhaps afraid that passing it sooner could trigger an
The opposition and even a group of PD mayors close to Renzi
have been calling for early elections to be held together with
European parliament voting in May, but so far Renzi has stuck to
Letta's timetable of next year.
Though Renzi and Letta have repeatedly said a cabinet
reshuffle this year is not planned, in an interview broadcast by
SkyTG24 on Sunday, Regional Affairs Minister Graziano Delrio,
who is close to Renzi, acknowledged that one is possible.
Italian media reported on Sunday that ministers who risk
being replaced include Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni,
Labour Minister Enrico Giovannini, Justice Minister Anna Maria
Cancellieri and Agriculture Minister Nunzia De Girolamo.