Italy may need cabinet reshuffle, deputy PM says

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 15, 2014 8:35 AM

ROME (Reuters) - Italy may need a cabinet reshuffle, its deputy prime minister said on Wednesday, in comments that may fuel the uncertainty facing Prime Minister Enrico Letta's fragile coalition as it tries to fix an ailing economy and draft a new election law.

A reshuffle could increase tensions in Letta's left-right coalition, which has struggled to enact reforms to rescue Italy's economy, the third largest in the euro zone and weighed down by the bloc's second largest public debt after Greece.

But some supporters of a reshuffle say it may be the best way to disarm criticism of the government's record from Matteo Renzi, the new leader of Letta's center-left Democratic Party (PD) by giving him a bigger stake in the coalition's success.

The PD is the largest party in the coalition, which also includes center-right parties. Renzi is not in the government.

Asked about a reshuffle, Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano told Rai radio: "Everybody wants it, but no one admits it."

"There is support for changing some ministers and when Letta returns today from his international mission to Mexico he must take up the burden of working out a (new) composition."

Renzi, who is also mayor of Florence, has used his clout since his election as PD leader last month to criticize the government and to propose new policies, undermining Letta's authority.

Italian daily La Stampa published a letter from Renzi on Wednesday in which he denied seeking to weaken the prime minister but seemed to question Letta's competence.

"If Letta starts to look bad, it's because he's governing badly, not because there's a new secretary of the PD," Renzi wrote.

Several ministers have been the focus of criticism in recent months. Italian media say those who could be vulnerable in any reshuffle include Economy Minister Fabrizio Saccomanni, Labour Minister Enrico Giovannini, Justice Minister Anna Maria Cancellieri and Agriculture Minister Nunzia De Girolamo.

(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; Editing by Gareth Jones)