September 20, 2019 / 12:22 PM / a month ago

Italy's Renzi faces uphill path to win moderate vote - pollsters

ROME (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s new party will not find it easy to claim the middle ground of Italian politics, the first polls after its breakaway from the ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD) show.

FILE PHOTO: Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi speaks at a news conference regarding his proposal for a transitional Italian government in Rome, Italy, August 13, 2019. REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

An EMG Acqua opinion poll for state-owned RAI television said only 3.4% of voters would support the new Italia Viva (Italy Alive) party. The Demopolis agency for private channel La 7, gave it 5.2%.

This week 40 lawmakers joined Renzi’s party, making its backing indispensable for the survival of the new governing coalition of the PD and the 5-Star Movement.

The former PD leader, who played a major role in forming the new alliance after the far-right League abandoned its coalition with the 5-Star, has said he will back the government.

Renzi, who has had a turbulent relation with his former party in recent years, aims to attract centrist voters ahead of a widely expected proportional reform of the electoral law that is seen enhancing the bargaining power of small parties.

The EMG poll said the PD has lost a 2.8 points in a week, suggesting it had shed votes to Renzi’s new movement.

“The first polls seem to show a trend: a large part of the Italia Viva electorate comes from the PD. For now Renzi seems to have little attraction outside”, said Lorenzo Pregliasco, head of polling and political analysis firm YouTrend.

However, Demopolis estimated potential support of 9% for the new party, which has not yet presented a policy platform but has already drawn a barrage of criticism from left and right.

In an interview with la Repubblica daily on Friday, former centre-left Prime Minister Romano Prodi said the name Italia Viva would be more suitable for a yogurt, adding that Renzi’s move was a threat to the new government.

“You can’t work to build a government and immediately undermine its stability,” Prodi said.

Former conservative Prime Minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia party has been a natural home of centrist voters for most of the last 25 years, attacked Renzi over his role in forging the PD/5-Star alliance.

“Renzi was the main architect of the most left-wing government in the republican history. I do not see moderate and liberal voters giving him their vote”, Berlusconi told Corriere della Sera newspaper on Friday.

Editing by Gavin Jones and Angus MacSwan

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