ITALY NEWS

Election Focus

The ins and outs
(issue no. 78/2008 / April 30, 2008)

Italy's recent national elections resulted in several surprises and turnarounds. Once a Communist stronghold in the West, Italy's radical left dissipated unexpectedly, and has been excluded from parliament for the first time since World War II.

The neo Marxist-Green coalition, called the Left Rainbow, lost approximately 8 percent of votes and failed to gain representation in parliament. Leader of the Left Rainbow, Fausto Bertinotti, subsequently resigned.

The election also reserved surprises for Francesco Storace's La Destra, on the radical right, which, with only 2.4 percent of the votes, did not gain representation.

Perhaps the most surprising result of the elections was the rise of the populist, devolutionist party, Northern League, allied with Berlusconi's PDL. Now the third largest party in Italy, it witnessed an unexpected jump to 8.3 percent from 4.6 percent in 2006. Frequently criticized as anti-immigrant and anti-European Union, the Lombardy-based group is pushing for tougher action on illegal immigration and crime. It also wants to introduce federal reforms that will benefit northern Italy. However, Berlusconi has said that the Northern League's pro-north stance would not influence the government's actions.

Catholic UDC, a former Berlusconi ally, won 5.6 percent of the seats, down from the 6.8 percent it had in 2006. Other smaller parties of the Christian Democrat tradition were eliminated from parliament.

Front-page headlines in Italian dailies dramatically described the political shake-up, saying parliament had been hit by an ‘earthquake' and a ‘tsunami'. One daily even referred to the situation as Italy's ‘Waterloo'.

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