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Saturday, December 3, 2016
After rapid rise, Italy's Renzi braced for fall
ROME (AFP) -
Matteo Renzi rose from local government in Florence to running Italy in the space of only a few months.
Nearly three years later, Sunday's constitutional referendum could send the youthful prime minister sliding back down the greasy pole of politics, temporarily at least.
If, as the polls suggest they will, voters reject Renzi's plan to streamline parliament, the centre-left leader has said he will step down.
The self-styled outsider in a hurry to shake up Italy finds himself on the inside, a target for those who say he has not been quick enough in fixing long-standing problems.
Renzi was just 39 when he came to power via an internal party coup in February 2014.
With his penchant for retro sunglasses, open-necked shirts and jeans, the former mayor of Florence was hailed at the time as a premier for the smartphone generation.
But the breath of fresh air is now in danger of being blown away by rival young Turks from populist and far right opposition parties trying to force him out.
After 1,000 days in office, Renzi, now 41, boasted last month of having steered the economy out of recession, got Italians spending again and improved public finances.
He has also had significant political victories: a controversial Jobs Act passed, election rules rewritten and his candidate, Sergio Mattarella, installed as president.