Caretaker PM sets out bold vision to reform Italian politics

ANDREW GUMBEL

Rome

It was the moment of truth that Italy had been anticipating for weeks. On Tuesday night, at the end of a five-day trip to the United States, Lamberto Dini addressed a Washington think-tank and outlined the kinds of thing he might like to do if parliament asked him to stay in office once he had completed his temporary mandate.

"I was not, and am not, a career politician," the Prime Minister insisted. But the content of his proposals to the Council of Foreign Relations told a very different story. He laid out a seven-point plan for reform intended to revolutionise the way politics is conducted in Italy and bring real stability to the country for the first time since the Second World War.

Yesterday, as he glanced at the Italian newspaper headlines on his way home, it must have been clear that a politician is exactly what he has become. Commentators who have long forecast a political epiphany for Mr Dini excitedly discussed his chances of finding parliamentary support for his programme, and speculated that the general elections initially expected some time before the end of this year might yet be put off until late 1996 or 1997.

Among Mr Dini's proposals were a new electoral law, abolishing the last traces of proportional representation in favour of a pure first-past-the- post system, a redefinition of the roles of the two houses of parliament, greater regional autonomy and an increase in the power of the Prime Minister to control his own cabinet.

Yesterday both left and right were forced to concede broad agreement with Mr Dini's aims, although there were signs of discomfort at being upstaged. The centre-left leader, Romano Prodi, wondered where Mr Dini would look for parliamentary support for his proposals, while the far- right leader, Gianfranco Fini, said that the country needed elections before considering such weighty issues.

In theory, Mr Dini is due to resign in a few weeks once the final plank of his original mandate - a new set of rules on political access to the media - is in place. It will then be up to President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro to reappoint him, appoint someone else or call new elections.

The notion of Mr Dini staying on is not new, but it had been assumed that he would merely maintain his non-political caretaker role to see out Italy's term as president of the European Union in the first half of next year.

The signs have been building nevertheless of a growing involvement with the nuts and bolts of party politics. His 1996 budget, unveiled last month,bore clear signs of compromise with the left-wing parties which have been supporting him in parliament.

At the same time, the leadership of each of the main political coalitions has been thrown into question. On the centre-left, there are fears that Mr Prodi is not tough or tele-genic enough to be an effective candidate. On the right, the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi risks being put on trial on charges of tax fraud and might prefer to allow someone else to run in his place.

Among the names being mentioned as possible replacements are Mr Dini himself, and Antonio Di Pietro, the popular former anti-corruption magistrate. Mr Di Pietro has yet to make a clear declaration of political intent, however.

As an unelected prime minister, Mr Dini might be an anomaly, but as a crisis manager he is probably is the best option for Italy. For the past year, the country has been caught in an awkward paradox: without elections it cannot achieve political stability, but the country needs political stability in order to con-duct effective elections. Mr Dini has seen a way of beating the paradox: it remains to be seen if he will be allowed to do so.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea