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Published: Sunday January 5, 2014 MYT 5:20:01 AM
Updated: Sunday January 5, 2014 MYT 5:20:51 AM

Italian junior minister who demanded government reshuffle resigns

ROME (Reuters) - Italian deputy economy minister Stefano Fassina resigned on Saturday, after calling for a cabinet reshuffle following the election of Matteo Renzi to lead his Democratic Party (PD), the biggest in the coalition, a government spokesman said.

Fassina, a critic of austerity policies pushed by Europe to cut Italy's debt and a prominent member of the centre-left PD, was appointed in May by fellow party member Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who leads a coalition with centre-right and centrist parties.

Letta's spokesman said he had received an "irrevocable resignation" from Fassina, who had earlier demanded the party's ministers in government be reshuffled.

Fassina, a leading voice on the left of the party, called for the changes in government to reflect what he described as a new phase for the PD since Renzi was voted leader and candidate for prime minister in eventual elections.

But his call was unheeded and the subsequent resignation may be a sign Renzi has consolidated his grip on the party which had rejected him as leader in primaries a year ago amid accusations he was too economically centrist.

Though he is not in government, Renzi has been quick to set the agenda, this week laying out options for reforming Italy's electoral system, blamed for frequent political deadlock.

"In three days we have made more progress than has been achieved in three years," Renzi said Saturday.

He denied he had any plans to push for early elections, though said parliament would soon start talks on the electoral law, a thorny issue delayed by party bickering but seen as vital for the election of a government capable of driving reform.

(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary and Silvia Ognibene, editing by Rosalind Russell)

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