ROME (AP) -- Recently drubbed by voters, Italian ex-Premier Matteo Renzi on Sunday exhorted his Democratic Party to be more humble and in synch with citizens as he eyes elections widely expected in 2017.
Renzi resigned after voters rejected a reforms referendum on Dec. 4.
As leader of the Democrats, Parliament's largest party, Renzi delivered a pep talk to delegates from throughout Italy. Sounding uncharacteristically humble, Renzi said of his Democrats: "Our efficiency has been superior to our empathy."
"We dedicated too much attention to slide shows and not to the pain of those who were saying that things weren't going well," Renzi said.
Frustrated by Italy's economic malaise, voters resoundingly rejected constitutional reforms, a centerpiece of his nearly three-year-long government.
Opposition parties and Renzi himself are pushing for the quick reform of a disputed electoral law so Italians can vote far before the spring 2018 due date. It's up to Italy's president to decide if an early election is needed.
Parliament's No. 2 party is the opposition, populist 5-Star Movement. Founder Beppe Grillo is scrambling to do damage control as scandals last week engulfed some top aides to Rome's 5-Star mayor, Virginia Raggi.
A 5-Star leader, Alessandro Di Battista, said in a Facebook video that sometimes "honesty and ingenuousness go hand-in-hand."
The Movement eagerly aims for national power for the first time in elections. Grillo was buoyed by Raggi's triumph in voting for mayor of the Italian capital earlier this year. But her tenure in the high-visibility post has been marred by slow and bungled decisions in choosing aides and commissioners.
Factional squabbles and closed-door huddles are making the 5-Star Movement increasingly resemble the traditional parties it disparages.
Bickering also dogs the Democrats, who will decide with primaries whether Renzi will be their candidate for premier.