ITALY NEWS

Prodi grins and bears it

Government collapses after failed vote of confidence
(issue no. 72/2008 / February 7, 2008)

Italy’s ‘winter of discontent’ just got a little worse. As if the bad publicity from a waning economy and continual price hikes, corrupt politicians, mamma’s boys and daddy’s girls, and none other than a full-out trash emergency wasn’t enough, now Italians have to come to terms with yet another government collapse.

 

Following the resignation of Justice minister Clemente Mastella and the  unexpected withdrawal from Romano Prodi’s centre-left coalition on January 21, the two-time premier immediately called for a vote of confidence in the House and Senate. However, his already fragile government—rife with internal bickering and backbiting since its rise to power 20 months ago—suffered the defection of three key Udeur allies and was defeated in the Senate by 6 votes. Losing 155 to 161 in the Senate on January 24, Prodi, immediately resigned, marking the fall of Italy’s 61st government since 1945.   

 

Italian president Giorgio Napolitano held a series of consultations with party leaders over whether to establish an interim government to push through electoral reforms or dissolve parliament and head to the polls. However, he seems reluctant to call early elections before an accord is reached on electoral reforms.

 

Former premier Silvio Berlusconi and other leaders in the centre-right coalition are fiercely arguing for immediate elections, while ousted exponents from the centre-left favour an interim administration that would first unblock reforms to the current electoral system. Meanwhile, the latest polls indicate that over 50 percent of Italians are opposed to elections without electoral reform—a view shared by Italy’s trade unions and big business.

 

Senate speaker Franco Marini was appointed by Napolitano on January 30 to begin talks with political parties in an effort to drum up support for an interim government tasked with approving a new electoral law. In reference to recent calls from unions, industrialists and business associations, Marini said, ‘Civil society is inviting us in chorus to find an accord’.

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