ROME, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday he wanted to hold a leadership contest in his ruling Democratic Party (PD), looking for a showdown with his many critics in the group ahead any parliamentary elections.
Renzi stepped down as prime minister in December after losing a referendum on constitutional reform and wants early elections this year in an effort to regain power.
However, his drive for national ballot has been slowed by calls from within the faction-riddled PD for him to step aside as party secretary, a post he has held since December 2013.
"I think it's common sense to accept the idea of holding a Congress before a national vote," Renzi told PD bigwigs, referring to the assembly where the party leader is elected. "A cycle is closing in the leadership of the PD," he said. (Reporting by Crispian Balmer, editing by Steve Scherer)