February 24, 2017 / 12:04 PM / 6 months ago

Aide plays down reports Italy's Renzi wants June elections

FILE PHOTO: Outgoing Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gestures during the bell ceremony, to signify the start of the first cabinet meeting of the newly appointed Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, at Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy December 12, 2016.Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - A close ally of former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi on Friday dismissed media reports that Renzi plans to try to bring down the government and push for an election by June.

The next election is not scheduled until early 2018.

Lorenzo Guerini, acting leader of the ruling Democratic Party (PD), said there was no link between Renzi's wish to hold an internal PD leadership contest as soon as possible and the timing of the next election.

"The PD is the main force that supports the government and it will continue to do so with great determination," he said in a statement.

Renzi resigned as prime minister in December after losing a referendum on his plans for constitutional reform and was replaced by his former foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni. He is now trying to make a comeback.

On Sunday he also quit as leader of the PD under fire from internal critics but announced he would run against his rivals to regain the job in primary elections among party supporters this year.

Renzi wants the PD primary to be held in April, but his opponents say they need more time to become better-known and organise their campaigns.

Several Italian newspapers said on Friday that Renzi wanted to complete the primary by April in order to then withdraw the PD's support from Gentiloni's government and force a national election by June.

Guerini said it was "absurd" to connect the two.

Reporting By Gavin Jones; editing by Philip Pullella

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