Rome: Thousands protest austerity policy (PHOTOS)


Demonstrators applaud during the left-wing Italian metalworkers' union FIOM rally in downtown Rome Piazza San Giovanni on May 18, 2013.


Filippo Monteforte

With red flags and placards, thousands of people protested austerity policy and high unemployment in Rome on Saturday, imploring Prime Minister Enrico Letta to help spur job creation.

The peaceful rally — expected to draw 50,000 people and led by the left-wing metalworkers' trade union FIOM and CGIL — puts pressure on Letta's already strained coalition.

"We ask the government to change [former Prime Minister Mario] Monti's and [former Prime Minister Mario Silvio] Berlusconi's politics," said FIOM leader Maurizio Landini.

Letta, with less than a month in office, must hold together his coalition, made of the center-left Democratic party and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom.

But public confidence, strained by inconclusive elections earlier this year, is already fading, with a SWG institute poll saying the government's approval rating dropped from 43 percent to 34 percent at the beginning of May.

"We hope that this government will finally start listening to us because we are losing our patience," protester Enzo Bernardis told Reuters.

Italy is suffering its longest recession on record, has a national debt of about 127 percent of yearly economic output, and youth unemployment (15-24 years) is around 38 percent.