Italy's JFK: Florence mayor Matteo Renzi asked to be new prime minister

The head of the leftist Democratic Party, Matteo Renzi, speaks to reporters at Quirinale Palace in Rome on Feb. 17, 2014, after being nominated Italy's youngest-ever prime minister by the President Giorgio Napolitano.

Center-left leader and Florence mayor Matteo Renzi was nominated Italy's youngest-ever prime minister Monday, after wrestling power from his predecessor in a bid to revitalize the eurozone's third largest economy.

The 39-year-old was tasked by President Giorgio Napolitano with forming a new coalition government, which is expected to be put to a decisive confidence vote in parliament later this week.

Renzi outlined an ambitious plan for reform on Monday just after receiving the nomination to be the country's new prime minister, promising to apply all his "energy, enthusiasm and commitment."

He said he would begin coalition talks on Tuesday and vowed to act quickly to reform the constitution, the labor market, education and the tax system.

Renzi enjoys high popularity ratings, mainly because he has never been in national government or parliament on a political scene tainted by corruption scandals.

But his critics accuse him of overarching ambition and brashness, and he will struggle to convince skeptics that his power grab was preferable to early elections.

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With his catchy slogans and savvy use of social media, the informal Renzi is particularly popular among younger voters turned off by old-school politicians.

He can often be seen cycling around Florence and prefers jeans, a leather jacket and retro sunglasses to the more formal attire worn by the political elite.

He is a fan of the band U2 and Italian rapper Jovanotti.

While he built up support in Florence by lowering taxes, boosting recycling and encouraging innovation, analysts warn that he may lack the experience for tough bargaining with trade unions and political tussles.

Renzi has pushed for more cuts in spending on Italy's unwieldy bureaucracy amid widespread anger over high salaries for public officials even during a painful recession, as well as a greater focus on education.

He has called for reforms to make it easier for immigrants to obtain citizenship and to allow same-sex civil unions.

Fan of Obama 

Part of Renzi's appeal is that he is from a generation that came after the bitter ideological standoff between the Christian-Democratic party and the Italian Communist Party that dominated politics for decades.

Born on Jan. 11, 1975, in Florence, he studied law and had his first brush with politics at 19 when he worked as a local campaign volunteer for future prime minister and European Commission chief Romano Prodi.

He then worked for a few years at his family's advertising company which makes most of its money thanks to a local Florentine paper, La Nazione.

Renzi's first leap into politics proper came in 2001 when he became a local organizer for La Margherita (The Daisy), a short-lived center-left party.

He was then selected by the center-left to run in elections to lead the provincial government in Florence in June 2004 and won with 58.8 percent of the vote.

It was only his mayoral victory in the city of Florence in 2009, however, that attracted national attention. 

Before his first unsuccessful campaign for the party leadership in 2012, Renzi attended the Democratic National Convention in the United States and spoke there of his deep admiration for President Barack Obama.

After losing to cigar-chomping former communist Pierluigi Bersani, he won the nomination in a repeat primary in 2013 after an inconclusive general election for which Bersani was widely criticised.

Renzi is married to a former fellow Scout, Agnese, a schoolteacher, and the couple have three children.