Movement for 'honest Italy' is born

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The Independent Online
ITALY took an important step towards a new political future at the weekend when the reformer, Mario Segni, called for a broad electoral alliance of 'honest Italy' to oust the corrupt and discredited political parties that have ruled it since the war.

'The ruling political class is irrevocably doomed,' he said, to thunderous applause from 10,000 to 12,000 supporters gathered in Rome. The alliance, he said, would draw on the millions of people who gave his movement an overwhelming victory in the referendum on electoral reform last June. The aim would be to achieve at least 51 per cent of the vote. 'We can do it,' he declared amid standing ovations. 'We will not be stopped. They shall not stop us.'

As he spoke, two members of the Abruzzo regional government joined nine others in jail for allegedly mismanaging European Community funds and four public works officials and two businessmen were arrested for fraud, while local government politicians are behind bars for corruption.

The congress hall was packed with people from all parts of Italy, opposition parties, social groups and ordinary Italians repelled by the degree of misgovernment, corruption and self-enrichment reached by the political parties. Many of them had worked to collect signatures for petitions to call referendums on electoral reform, to break the power of party bureaucracies.

There were many young people, but also pensioners, intellectuals, a smattering of stars, well-dressed middle-aged couples - Italy's educated middle class, disciplined, thoughtful, attentive. They were the same kind of people as those who three years ago in Eastern Europe came together to give the decisive shove to Communist regimes.

Mr Segni's aim, apart from reforming the system itself, is to provide voters with a 'popular' mass movement as a keen, dedicated alternative to the present Christian Democrats and socialists. His first strategy is to put up 'civic lists' in the towns and cities, historically the basis of political life in Italy, and then to campaign on the national level. He is already sure of support from the Greens and Radical parties and almost certain of the small, intellectual and business- orientated Republicans. The core, however, will probably be people of his own personal orientation whom he calls 'democratic Catholics'. This is a far cry from the clergy-ridden Christian Democracy of the post-war period when parish priests could warn simple voters: 'God sees what you do in the polling booth, Stalin doesn't' Italians are now far more sophisticated, but millions still hold basic Catholic values.

Mr Segni is still a Christian Democrat and stopped short of breaking away from his party, although the chants of 'out, out (of the party)' indicated that that is what his followers want. But he made it clear that if Mino Martinazzoli, the party's new general secretary, due to be elected today, failed to reform the party he would leave.

Mr Segni's movement and the separatist Northern League have goaded established parties into action. While the Christian Democrats prepare to elect the highly respectable Mino Martinazzoli, Claudio Martelli, the Justice Minister battling to become the new leader of the Socialist Party, proposed a 'national league for reforms'. But any attempt to rescue his party may be too late. The newspaper La Repubblica yesterday dismissed it as 'the walking dead'.