WHATEVER THE outcome of these upheavals, one thing is certain: the government will exit from them weaker both numerically and politically. The top priority now is to get the 1999 budget approved and to prevent Italy from losing its reputation for reliability in the international sphere. But obviously the choices and commitments facing the country in the next few months, from an intervention in Kosovo to social policy, will require greater strength and cohesion within the government. At that point, a self-sufficient parliamentary majority could find itself with extra backing from outside in the run-up to European or presidential elections (to be held next spring).
And then, either the Olive Tree alliance will have to be ready to grow, or it'll be back to the ballot box, hopefully with a new electoral law to increase the stability of the whole system.
CAN WE really let Italy's future depend on [Fausto] Bertinotti [the Rifondazione Comunista secretary who withdrew support from Prodi]? I can see Prodi's problem: it's difficult setting sail with the right crew. Even Jesus Christ got a couple of his dinner guests wrong: Judas Iscariot sold him for 30 pieces of silver, and Peter, like the heads of the Italian Olympic Committee when asked about doping, said: "I don't know, I wasn't there."
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