Europe

Italy's Renzi resigns as party chief, seeks renewed mandate

  • Former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi talks during a national assembly of the Democratic Party, in Rome's Hotel Parco de' Principi, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. Renzi has resigned as Democratic Party leader in a bid to win a fresh, stronger mandate ahead of national elections, when populist political forces are positioned to pose the biggest challenge.  (Angelo Carconi/ANSA via AP)

    Former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi talks during a national assembly of the Democratic Party, in Rome's Hotel Parco de' Principi, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. Renzi has resigned as Democratic Party leader in a bid to win a fresh, stronger mandate ahead of national elections, when populist political forces are positioned to pose the biggest challenge. (Angelo Carconi/ANSA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi talks during a national assembly of the Democratic Party, in Rome's Hotel Parco de' Principi, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. Renzi has resigned as Democratic Party leader in a bid to win a fresh, stronger mandate ahead of national elections, when populist political forces are positioned to pose the biggest challenge.  (Angelo Carconi/ANSA via AP)

    Former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi talks during a national assembly of the Democratic Party, in Rome's Hotel Parco de' Principi, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. Renzi has resigned as Democratic Party leader in a bid to win a fresh, stronger mandate ahead of national elections, when populist political forces are positioned to pose the biggest challenge. (Angelo Carconi/ANSA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • Former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi makes a point during his message during a national assembly of the Democratic Party, in Rome's Hotel Parco de' Principi, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. Renzi resigned as Democratic Party leader in a bid to win a fresh, stronger mandate ahead of national elections, when populist political forces are positioned to pose the biggest challenge.  (Giuseppe Lami/ANSA via AP)

    Former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi makes a point during his message during a national assembly of the Democratic Party, in Rome's Hotel Parco de' Principi, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. Renzi resigned as Democratic Party leader in a bid to win a fresh, stronger mandate ahead of national elections, when populist political forces are positioned to pose the biggest challenge. (Giuseppe Lami/ANSA via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Former Italian Premier Matteo Renzi has resigned as Democratic Party leader in a bid to win a fresh, stronger mandate before the national election in which populist political forces are positioned to pose the biggest challenge.

As promised, Renzi told fellow Democratic leaders at a meeting Sunday that he was resigning. But Renzi insisted he won't submit to what he called the "blackmail" of a more left-leaning faction threatening a schism if he again seeks the top party post.

The national election, due in early 2018, might come earlier if Premier Paolo Gentiloni loses control of a frequently squabbling center-left parliamentary majority.

The populist, anti-euro 5-Star Movement aims to gain national power for the first time. It is Parliament's second-biggest party, after the Democrats, who govern in a center-left coalition.