Italian right heading for win as alliance falls apart: Berlusconi's TV channels claim victory in Rome constituency

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ITALY'S Second Republic was born last night amid signs of a dramatic victory for the right, led by the controversial media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi. Computer projections based on first results indicated that his Forza Italia, with the the Northern League and the fascist-led National Alliance, could have an absolute majority in both houses of parliament.

But before the first results trickled in the right's already fractious electoral alliance was falling apart, with Umberto Bossi, leader of the federalist League declaring that they would never govern with the 'foul reactionaries' of the National Alliance.

Pollsters were struggling to translate exit poll percentages into seats in the new pariliament, elected on a new system combining proportional representation for some seats with first-past-the-post for others. At first it had appeared that the left might win an overall majority in the Senate, while the right dominated the Chamber of Deputies, rendering the country ungovernable. Within a couple of hours projections by the respected Doxa institute for Mr Berlusconi's TV channels overturned that picture.

The elections marked the end of Italy's First Republic, brought down by corruption and misgovernment. The Socialist former prime minister, Bettino Craxi, a friend of Mr Berlusconi and one of the main accused in the corruption scandals, goes on trial in Milan today.

But the Second Republic may take some time establishing itself. The new electoral system is already seen as unsatisfactory and may have to be reformed again.

According to early computer projections the right appeared set to win at least half the 630 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. At the same time projections gave the right between 153 and 171 seats in the 315-seat Senate.

Mr Berlusconi claimed victory at 1am. His triumphant announcement was closely followed by a statement conceding defeat by Achille Occhetto, the leader of the former Communist PDS, the biggest party on the left. Mr Bossi, after his first outburst, became more cautious, but the League's membership of a possible right-wing administration looked unlikely. The electoral reformer Mario Segni, whose centrist Pact for Italy also suffered badly, ruled out participation in a right-dominated government.

Whatever the outcome these elections have liberated Italy's right from the dual straitjacket into which it has been forced since the Second World War, with the far right in a kind of political quarantine in the neo-Fascist Movimento Sociale - which later turned into the National Alliance - and the rest in the centrist, Catholic-dominated Christian Democrats, now defunct.

Thanks also to the success of Gianfranco Fini in giving the NA a respectable image.

The biggest success is undoubtedly that of Silvio Berlusconi, who brought his Forza Italia, set up largely by his own business apparatus, from nowhere to gain the biggest number of votes of any party, with around 26 per cent.

Exit polls also indicated that, contrary to expectations, he would also win his personal contest for election in the centre of Rome against the outgoing Budget Minister, Luigi Spaventa. Mr Berlusconi had uninhibitedly used his three channels, his advertising infrastructure and his huge publishing empire to promote his cause.

The second biggest party, in terms of votes, was the PDS with a predicted 20 per cent and the third was the National Alliance, while the Northern League, until recently so successful, found itself with a humiliating 8 per cent.

----------------------------------------------------------------- CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES ----------------------------------------------------------------- Distribution of seats according to computer projection for RAI TV RIGHT 325-345 LEFT 225-245 CENTRE 55-75 -----------------------------------------------------------------

Youth of Rome stunned, page 8