ROME — Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, whose weak coalition government has come under increasing criticism, announced Thursday that he would resign, after his own Democratic Party staged a dramatic insurrection and set the stage to replace him with the party's new leader, Matteo Renzi.
The Democratic Party is the largest member of Italy's coalition government, and the party's decision to dump Letta could be put to a confidence vote in Parliament. Letta will meet with his Cabinet this morning and then present his resignation letter to Italy's president, making way for Renzi, 39, to become Italy's youngest prime minister.
Renzi, the mayor of Florence who recently won a nationwide primary to become leader of the Democratic Party, has a reputation for boldness and has long been considered Italy's most promising young politician.
He has spoken repeatedly about the need for sweeping political and economic changes. But few analysts foresaw that he would lead a revolt against his party's sitting prime minister.
"Italy is living in a moment of difficulty," Renzi said during a televised emergency meeting of the Democratic Party on Thursday afternoon. "We need to offer the possibility to emerge from this morass with a radical program to relaunch the country."
Italy is suffering through a prolonged recession, even as some other European countries are starting to emerge from a devastating downturn. Unemployment tops 12 percent, and while business leaders have called for major reforms to spur economic growth, Italy's political system has been stalemated, largely unable to respond.