Childhood & Early Life
Matteo Renzi was born on January 11, 1975, in Florence, to Tiziano Renzi and Laura Bovoli. Tiziano is a businessman and a municipal councilor at Rignano sull’Arno. The couple has four children, out of which Matteo was born second. The other children are Samuele, Matilde and Benedetta.
Matteo spent the initial years in Rignano sull’Arno, a commune located 20 km southeast to Florence. Later, he attended Liceo classico, known as the country’s oldest secondary schooling type, in Florence. During his school years he joined the ‘Associazione Guide e Scouts Cattolici Italiani’ as a scout. This was also the time he began taking interest in politics.
After passing out from Liceo classico, Matteo joined the University of Florence and graduated in 1999, with a degree in law.
Later, he joined his family business. It was a marketing company and he was put in charge of coordinating the circulation of La Nazion, a Tuscan newspaper based at Florence.
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Matteo Renzi started taking interest in politics while he was still a student. In 1996, he co-founded a committee that supported Romano Prodi in his bid to become the Prime Minister in 1996 general election.
In the same year, he joined Partito Popolare Italiano (PPI), a progressive, democratic party with centrist view. In 1999, he became its Provincial Secretary. In 2001, as PPI merged into Democrazia è Libertà – La Margherita (DL), commonly known as Daisy, Matteo became its member.
In 2004, Matteo was elected as the Secretary of Florence Province. Not yet thirty, he was the youngest person to be ever elected to the post of president of any Italian province. During his presidency, he reduced taxes and at the same time trimmed down the number of employees at the Province.
In 2007, DL and other center-left parties merged to form Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) and Matteo became its member. Two years later, he declared he would contest the election for the position of Mayor of Florence. He won the election, held in June 2009, with 48% of the votes.
As the Mayor of Florence, he decreased the number of councilors by half and increased the spending on social welfare. Education was also another sector, which received his attention. He not only increased expenditure on it, but also reduced the waiting list in the kindergarten by 90%.
By 2010, his popularity was quite high. He now organized public meeting in Florence. Here, he emphasized on the need to bring about a change in the party. Many prominent leaders sided with him. The Italian media now began to call him ‘il Rottamatore’ (The Scrapper).
In 2011, Renzi organized another public meeting in Florence. In this meeting he stated that Italian politicians who belonged to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s generation should retire. This caused quite an uproar and those who were close to Pier Luigi Bersani, the then Secretary of Democratic Party (PD) strongly criticized him.
In 2012, Renzi ran for the post of the party Secretary, but lost to Pier Luigi Bersani in the primary election. Undeterred, Renzi announced that he would seek election for the post of Prime Minister in the 2013 general election.
There were four other candidates for the post and Pier Luigi Bersani was one of them. In the first round, Renzi got 35.5% votes. This made eligible for running in the second round. However, in later rounds, he got 39% votes while Bersani got 61%. He then withdrew from the race and backed Barsani.
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However, Democratic Party did poorly in the election, held on 24 and 25 February, 2013. They got only in 25% of the votes. Although they had absolute majority in the lower house, they failed in the upper house. Bensari next tried to strike a deal with other parties; but this too failed.
Acknowledging the defeat, Pier Luigi Bersani resigned from the post of the leader of the Democratic Party in April 2013. Ultimately, Enricco Letta, also of Democratic Party, formed a grand coalition and became the next Prime Minister with the support of three other parties.
With the resignation of Bensari, Renze declared that he would stand for the position of the party Secretary. He had the support of many important leaders and ultimately, won the election with 68% of the votes. With this win, he not only became the party’s Secretary, but also its prospective Prime Ministerial candidate.
Soon after, rumors of clash between Renzi and Prime Minister Letta began to circulate in the political circle. Later it was confirmed that Renzi wanted Letta to resign because he felt that as a leader of the party he should get a chance to lead the government.
The matter was settled by an election held on February 13, 2014. Renzi won by 136 votes as against Letta’s 36. As Letta resigned on February 14, Renzi was invited to form new government on February 17. On February 21, 2014, he announced the names of his new cabinet ministers, chosen mainly from younger generation.
As Prime Minister
Matteo Renzi was formally appointed as the Prime Minister on February 22, 2014. On assuming office, his first priority was to reform labor laws. According to the new government such reforms were essential to improve Italian economy.
On March 12, 2014, his cabinet issued a decree on fixed-term contracts and a bill, which proposed major reforms to the Italian labor market. The latter, called the Jobs Act, became a law by December 3, 2014.
The guidelines for the reform of the Public Administration were presented on April 30, 2014 which was later approved by the Cabinet on June 13, 2014. In addition, he appointed many women as the head of state owned companies. It was also something novel in Italy.
As austerity measure, he put 1500 government owned luxury cars on auction. He also took measures to implement stalled projects and to simply the official procedures. By May 2015, his efforts began to bear fruit and Italy experienced 0.3% growth, thus signaling an end of long recession.
Renzi also undertook constitutional reforms and decreased the power of the Senate. However, his biggest challenge lies in tackling the high level of illegal immigration from Syria and Libya. Many of these immigrants have to be rescued from the sea.
To tackle such matters, Renzi and his cabinet issues a law decree that allowed international protection of the migrants. Subsequently, he replaced ‘Operation Mare Nostrum’ run by Italian government by ‘Operation Triton’ run by European Union’s border security agency Frontex.
Renzi formed closed relationship with heads of different countries. His course of action, which merges right wing economics with left wing social policies, has been appreciated by many heads of state. In fact, many consider him as the perfect example of ‘Third Way Policies’.