Coup alarm sounds in weakened Italy: President Scalfaro cancels foreign visits as fears of a take-over grow
Monday 22 March 1993
The alarm is being sounded in the midst of the most sensitive phase yet of Italy's democratic revolution, with Giuliano Amato's government severely weakened by its attempt to save corrupt politicians from jail; once-powerful politicians disgraced, embittered and frightened; the public demanding full justice and a total change.
A further blow to the government came yesterday when another member, the Agriculture Minister, Gianni Fontana, resigned after being notified he was under investigation on suspicion of corruption. He is the fifth minister to step down.
The concern was prompted by a bizarre succession of events set off by Francesco Cossiga, the previous president, whose violent outbursts against things he disapproved of made him highly controversial. In an interview with the daily La Stampa, he said he would 'absolutely, definitely' refuse to become prime minister, then proceeded to outline a hypothetical scenario under which he would accept.
This was if 'a minister was assassinated on the steps of parliament . . . town halls in the south were set on fire, if crowds of hooligans tried, with complicity from inside, to storm Montecitorio (the lower house of parliament) forcing the carabinieri to drown the revolt in blood . . .'
He added: 'We must not behave like ostriches. The country wants the gallows, it wants summary justice, something violent that will sweep the corrupt and compromised ruling class away for ever.' Mr Amato's government, he said, 'is ridiculous . . . it has failed, it has been disastrous'.
'Legions' of people were begging him to come back, he said. His conditions also included 'a decree in my pocket to dissolve parliament' and carte blanche for a constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution.
Mr Cossiga's scenario caused concern. 'Someone could get funny ideas,' said the Defence Minister, Salvo Ando. 'I consider it an incitement to an authoritarian take-over,' said Massimo d'Alema, the former Communists' floor leader. 'There is a whiff of a right-wing coup.'
Two politicians in trouble tended to confirm the fears. Giulio Di Donato, the former Socialist deputy secretary, said: 'The movement around Cossiga is only the work of desperate people. But desperation is brewing . . . Cossiga is perhaps the only one who could rein in the magistrates and the plotters.' 'People here can't take it any more,' added Socialist Paolo Cirino Pomicino, apparently referring to parliament. 'Someone is preparing a violent outcome.'
Soon after the interview two sensational reports were circulated, their sources a mystery. One was that President Scalfaro, increasingly the mainstay of democratic stability, had allegedly taken illegal funds - flatly denied by Milan's chief public prosecutor. Then Mr Amato was reported to have tried to resign last week and to have been prevented by the President. Mr Amato furiously denounced the report as the work of 'intriguers'.
Italy itself does not seem particularly tense or endangered. Most commentators agree that it is perfectly capable of reforming its political system by constitutional means. Nevertheless, President Scalfaro's postponement of state visits to Denmark and Finland, officially because he wants to be in the country for the campaign for the 18 April referendum on electoral reform, is being seen as a sign of watchfulness at a sensitive time.
International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
Malaysia Airlines: Search for true identity of passengers with stolen passports launched as terrorism concern grows
Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
International Women’s Day: 'When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch' - feminist quotes from female icons to inspire you
Dead woman's body found sitting in a car after six years after direct debits ran $54,000 bank account dry
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Ukraine crisis: Russia dismisses '3am ultimatum' as 'total nonsense'
If you're horrified by a flame-roasted dog, you should be shocked at a hog roast
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
White people become less racist just by moving to more diverse areas, study finds
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
- 1 International Women's Day 2014: The shocking statistics that show why it is still so important
- 2 Orgasm machine to deliver climax at the push of a button
- 3 Teacher shows sex tape featuring herself to pupils during class by mistake
- 4 Singapore sting: Sky-high prices are pushing locals to the edge of affordability
- 5 Liam Neeson turned down James Bond role because late wife Natasha Richardson said she wouldn't marry him if he took it
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: A small but growing chain of boutique hot...
£12000 per annum: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ba...
£45 - 60k Per Annum: Charter Selection: Highly profitable leisure brand, marke...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residenti...