Former Italian PM Renzi steps down as Democratic Party leader

"It is unacceptable that the work of the party will stop, because of the minority dictatorship", Renzi said.

Having resigned as prime minister on the night of the referendum, Mr Renzi also resigned as party secretary last Sunday.

(Giuseppe Lami/ANSA via AP).

On Sunday, he called on the social democratic party to stay true to itself. Over the weekend, former Premier Matteo Renzi stepped down as party leader in hopes of preventing all-out split.

The left-wing of his centre-left party have threatened to break away which has infuriated Renzi.

"The word "split" hurts me, but blackmail is even worse". The referendum went down to defeat on December 4, prompting Renzi's resignation as premier after almost three years in the post.

His resignation was telegraphed long in advance and it is assumed he could win re-election to the post at a future party congress, which would clear the way for him to run as prime ministerial candidate in elections expected in 2018.

The tensions within the party come at a delicate time in Italian politics, with general elections to be held within a year at the latest, and the anti-euro, anti-establishment Five Star Movement making a bid to emerge as the leading party.

5 Star, which opposed Renzi's proposals in the plebiscite, and the Democrats are running neck-and-neck in public-opinion polls.

  • Leroy Wright