The main problem is not Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment Five-Star Movement, which took 25 per cent of the vote in the 2013 general election. It is that practically half the political spectrum -- from Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party to Matteo Salvini's Northern League and the Five-Star Movement -- is represented by forces that espouse eurosceptic or anti-euro policies.

In a country once dominated by Christian Democrats, for whom European integration was the noblest of ideals, there is no longer a moderate, pro-EU centre-right party of any significance. Mr Salvini, who terms the euro a "criminal currency", is Italy's second most popular politician after Mr Renzi.

For the EU, and the eurozone in particular, this makes it extraordinarily important that Mr Renzi's reforms of the tax system, labour market, judiciary, public administration, electoral system and much more should succeed... Whatever his shortcomings, though, Mr Renzi's government represents the last throw of the dice by convinced reformers on the other side of the Italian political spectrum -- the left. Mr Renzi is their leading light. If he fails, there will be little appetite on the left to have another go at carrying out the difficult modernisation that Italy needs. Economic decline will continue, sooner or later imperilling Italy's eurozone membership -- and monetary union itself.

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