ROME, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Italy's Democratic Party (PD) on Monday voted to hold an assembly this weekend to call a party meeting as soon as possible ahead of early national elections.
According to ANSA news agency, leader and ex-prime minister Matteo Renzi effectively announced his resignation by telling the meeting that it was the end of his "cycle" at the head of the center-left party.
Renzi called for a quick party congress before a general election, saying he hoped the PD could avert a split on this. But former leader and minority chief Pier Luigi Bersani rejected his call, saying Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni's government should be allowed to serve until the end of the legislature's natural term in February 2018.
The PD meeting voted for a majority motion convening an assembly Saturday or Sunday to call an "immediate" congress, prompting Bersani to reiterate that the congress should be held in October or November and the government should serve out its term.
The new development set the PD up for a political showdown between allies of Renzi and a major faction that thinks the 42-year-old should step down as party leader.
The PD has been the most important political party in Italy for the last 25 years, but it is under pressure over the debate about who should lead it.
The national vote is currently scheduled to take place in the first half of next year, but Renzi and the populist Five-Star Movement had been pushing for it to be moved up to this year.