Italy facing new elections as far-left rejects budget plans
Wednesday 08 October 1997
That would deprive Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister, of the votes he needs to get Italy into shape for the single European currency.
But all is not yet lost, says Andrew Gumbel.
It was an unusually impassioned Romano Prodi who took the podium in the Chamber of Deputies yesterday afternoon and gave the most important speech of his 17 months in office. Reforming the welfare state, he said, was "the last and indispensable step on our march towards Europe". He appealed to all sides, not just Rifondazione Comunista, to safeguard the country's future.
His half-hour speech made little impression on Fausto Bertinotti, Rifondazione's intransigent leader. "What the government is proposing is totally inadequate," Mr Bertinotti announced."This budget is unacceptable in its present form and we will vote against it."
That seemed to be Rifondazione's last word on the matter, and Mr Prodi's centre-left coalition thereby lost its parliamentary majority.
The next few moves have been sufficiently well mapped out in advance to be near-certain predictions: Mr Prodi will offer his resignation and, with the political mood set against forging a new, broader coalition, the country can look forward to its third general election in less than five years.
But that still leaves the budget. President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro has made clear that he will not dissolve parliament until the package has been passed, a position that will almost certainly drag out the crisis for another month at least.
Mr Prodi can expect to be reinstalled as a caretaker premier, charged with the task of finding the extra votes he needs to push the package through and guarantee Italy's place in European monetary union.
That, in turn, will produce some unseemly haggling with the present opposition - a kind of pre-election campaign fought over the fine print of the public finances - but will probably result in the legislation that Mr Prodi has been looking for all along. The election would be postponed until February or so.
What interest does Rifondazione have in sabotaging the Prodi government if the thing it opposes - cuts in pensions and welfare spending - will probably go through anyway?
There are two reasons. First, opinion polls suggest that a new election would give Rifondazione more votes and the main government and opposition parties a few less. And secondly, a new election would destroy current attempts by the major parties to reform the constitution and make the country more governable.
"More governable" means, first and foremost, reducing the influence of small parties like Rifondazione that for too long have held Italy to ransom. Instability may be bad for the country, but it suits Mr Bertinotti just fine.
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
If Surrey were Syria: Social experiment shows what it's like to live under siege
Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says they 'messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal get peerages
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£13500 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning, Bolton base...
£23000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Account Executive is r...
£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Full Time position available now at a growing...