Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta gestures during a news conference at Chigi Palace in Rome February 12, 2014. (REUTERS/Remo Casilli)
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Thursday's meeting of the PD's 140-strong leadership group, called to decide whether the largest party in the coalition will continue to support the prime minister, is now set for an open showdown between Letta and his party leader Renzi.A low-key moderate with roots in the old Christian Democrat party, Letta was appointed in April to lead a cross-party government patched together after last year's deadlocked election.The latest ructions in Italy, the euro zone's third-largest economy, have so far left financial markets unperturbed, with the risk premium on Italian 10-year bonds over German Bunds around 200 basis points, comparable with levels seen before its bonds were sucked into the euro zone debt crisis in 2011 .Opinion polls suggest that Italian voters do not want a change of premier without elections, with a survey in Wednesday's La Stampa suggesting that no more than 14 percent wanted to see Renzi taking over before a new vote.Whether the small New Centre Right party that supports Letta would be willing to remain in government with the much more pugnacious Renzi remains to be seen, and Italian newspapers speculated that he may be aiming for a new coalition with the small Left Ecology Freedom party.
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