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Politics has trumped populism in Italy but it's not over yet, former Prime Minister Renzi says

Key Points
  • The opposition Democratic Party (PD) set aside its differences with the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S) this week to create a new coalition.
  • Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi left office after he lost a referendum on constitutional reform in 2016.
  • Renzi, attacking Lega leader Matteo Salvini for his divisive rhetoric and his use of social media, said that politics had trumped populism.
VIDEO2:0402:04
I cannot stay in government with the Five-Star Movement, Matteo Renzi says

A new left-wing coalition in Rome signals a move away from populism for Italy, according to former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who is hopeful that the new pact could share power until the next scheduled election in 2023.

The opposition Democratic Party (PD) — which Renzi led until 2016 — set aside its differences with the anti-establishment Five-Star Movement (M5S) this week to create a new coalition, after a rocky agreement between M5S and the right-wing Lega party ended last week.

Renzi, attacking Lega leader Matteo Salvini for his divisive rhetoric and his use of social media, said that politics had trumped populism using terminology borrowed from the sports field.

"This result: politics 1, populism O. This is the result of the first half of the match," he told CNBC's Joumanna Bercetche suggesting he was expecting some sort of challenge from the ousted Salvini.

A former deputy prime minister, Salvini called for a snap election earlier this month, declared the populist Lega-M5S coalition unworkable and pushed for a no-confidence vote in Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte — which ultimately failed. However, opinion polls suggest Lega is the most popular party in the country and political experts are eagerly anticipating Salvini's next move.

VIDEO1:3901:39
Italy's PD and 5-Star reach a deal to form new government

Meanwhile, Renzi — who left office after he lost a referendum on constitutional reform in 2016 — told CNBC that he would not be taking a ministerial post due to his dislike of former rivals M5S, describing personal attacks that had been made against him.

"I cannot stay in a government with the Five-Star Movement, I can vote (a vote of confidence), I can support, I can block Salvini and I can give a message to international investors: 'Please invest in Italy'," he said.

Renzi added that M5S — still seen by many as a populist and anti-establishment movement — should now move to the political core. "I think now is the time to change for them," he told CNBC.

—CNBC's Holly Ellyatt and Joumanna Bercetche contributed to this article.