Obituary: Amintore Fanfani

SHORTLY AFTER being elected chairman of the UN General Assembly in 1965, Amintore Fanfani tripped and broke his foot. According to popular legend, he exploited the mishap for some of his characteristically wry self-analysis in a letter to party colleagues: "It's not the first time I've fallen, and it won't be the first time that I've pull myself back up again."

"Il rieccolo" - "Here he is again" - as Fanfani was dubbed by the veteran commentator Indro Montanelli on one of his many returns to the political limelight, is often remembered for the spectacular failures which sidelined him: not being elected Italian head of state on three occasions when his own party defeated him behind the cover of the secret ballot; and campaigning furiously, over-emotionally and resoundingly unsuccessfully against the introduction of divorce onto Italy's statute books. "Divorce will hurl the nation into ruin," he warned on that occasion. "How will you like it when your wife leaves to marry your best friend's wife, or runs away with the chambermaid?"

But this leading light of the now-defunct Christian Democratic Party - a six-times prime minister and 11-times minister - did as much to shape modern Italy as any of his once all-powerful party colleagues. And if his irascible temper and arrogant manner made him as unpopular amongst his allies as it did amongst his rivals, his profound honesty and dedication to his Catholic-inspired ideals have brought together the whole of Italy's deeply divided political world in praising a contribution which spanned the whole of the post-war period.

Amintore Fanfani was born near Arezzo in 1908, the son of a Tuscan lawyer and a Calabrese mother, the only person, he was to say in later life, who ever scared him physically. A Fascist-by-default in his youth, he studied economics at Milan's Cattolica university, where he first came in contact with leading figures in the Christian Democrat movement.

Fanfani was a professor at the Cattolica from 1936 to 1955 - interrupted only by two years' exile from 1943-44 in Switzerland where he organised university tuition for fleeing Italians - and at La Sapienza university in Rome from 1955 to 1983, earning himself one of his many nick-names, "il professorino".

Teaching, however, came in a distant second behind politics: he was elected to the constituent assembly of the Italian Republic in 1947, going on over the following five decades to occupy every key ministry, and chalking up records positive and negative, including two of the Republic's shortest- ever governments, a 12-day one in 1954 and a 10-day one in 1987. In between, he nationalised the electrical energy sector in the first step towards reining in the power of Italy's private entrepreneurs and bringing the economy under political control, he reformed the country's backwards agricultural sector, introduced low-price housing for the poor, and focused Italian foreign policy on the Mediterranean basin, initiating a pro-Arab foreign policy which lasts to this day.

His greatest political coup, however - and one which was to help ensure that the Christian Democrats remained in power until corruption scandal brought the party down in the early 1990s - was cosying up to the Left in the late 1950s. When forming his fourth government, which lasted from 1962-63, Fanfani successfully performed the Herculean task of convincing both the Vatican and Italy's watchful ally the United States, that Italy's Socialists were not the thin edge of a red wedge which would change the face of Europe: for the first time, a left- wing party joined a governing Italian coalition.

Despite his contribution to country and party, Fanfani was never a popular figure. "There are two things that you just can't do in Italian politics," goes a saying attributed to the former prime minister Giulio Andreotti, "live with Fanfani, and live without him."

In a party where few veteran leaders have escaped the ignominy of accusations and arrests from the judiciary, Fanfani escaped unscathed. "He never needed to turn down a back-hander," wrote a commentator in yesterday's Corriere della Sera, "for the simple reason that no one would ever have dared offer him one." Fanfani made a very public stir when, as interior minister, he was offered access to secret funds for his activities.

His frenetic activity was legendary, and perhaps partly responsible for the animosity towards him: in a country where every tiny decision required a committee or two, and months of circular deliberations, a man who was famous for getting down to work at dawn, never allowing dossiers to gather dust on his desk, was bound to attract rancour.

But his acumen extended beyond the strictly political, a fact which benefitted even those colleagues who most taunted him. He was the first powerful Italian to recognise the power of television: with the collaboration of his close friend Ettore Bernabei, director of the state broadcaster RAI for 13 crucial years, Fanfani ensured that mass communications remained firmly in the hands of the Christian Democrats.

Fanfani died at his home, a stone's throw away from the senate where he had held a life senator's seat since 1972.

Amintore Fanfani, politician: born Pieve Santo Stefano, Italy 6 February 1908; married (seven children); died Rome 20 November 1999.

Arts and Entertainment Musical by Damon Albarn


Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment


film review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
    Compton Cricket Club

    Compton Cricket Club

    Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
    London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

    Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

    'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

    The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

    It helps a winner keep on winning
    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'