Technocrat faces rough ride in Italy
Saturday 14 January 1995
Back in the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s, government crises went on for six weeks or more. In 1979, the country ground to a halt for a full five months before the squabbling of the parties was resolved.
Yet the past three weeks have done untold damage to the standing of Italy's political class, both at home, where voters in last March's elections had hoped for something better than the mud-slinging of the past year, and abroad, where investors and currency speculators have been panicking. Rarely have Italian politicians insulted one another with such vigour while playing for such high stakes - this was, after all, supposed to be a new era after the corruption and stagnation of the past. This week, the system looked in danger of collapse.
Then, all of a sudden, the breakthrough. Mr Dini's appointment was welcomed by all the main parties. Mr Berlusconi's demands for immediate elections if he could not be reinstated vanished in the wind. Above all, the financial markets rallied, bringing Italy back from the brink of economic disaster. For the business community, President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro could not have made a better choice than Mr Dini.
Here was a man with a solid international reputation as a first-rate banker and super-cautious guardian of the public purse; a man with an untarnished record of personal honesty and, perhaps most important, a banker rather than a politician, with no taste for party back-stabbing.
But Mr Dini and his team of technocrats - which he has yet to name - know that the real battle starts here. However harmonious politicians might sound now, they are likely to fight tooth and nail over every one of Mr Dini's essential reforms.
Mr Berlusconi, in particular, is unlikely to give up his campaign for elections as soon as possible, seeing them as his best chance of regaining power.
"Berlusconi won't give up but will struggle to the end. He knows that if he is forced out of politics it could be the beginning of the end for him and his indebted business empire," said Ettore Gallo, former president of the Constitutional Court.
Two policy areas outlined by Mr Dini yesterday - new controls on media ownership and electoral reform - are directly against Mr Berlusconi's interests. The former could force him to give up part of his television network; the latter could reduce the impact he enjoyed under last March's single-round, mostly non-proportional system.
Mr Berlusconi's adversaries know they have a good chance of getting rid of him once and for all. "We are going to kick out the great corrupter," said a typically florid Umberto Bossi, leader of the maverick Northern League, whose defection from the government toppled Mr Berlusconi last month.
But Mr Dini's government will be far from an anti-Berlusconi coalition. His plans to cut public spending, and state pensions in particular, to help to balance the budget are likely to cause soul-searching on the left. The small left-wing Rifondazione Comunista party, whose votes might prove critical if Mr Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini's neo-Fascist National Alliance choose to stonewall, has expressed serious doubts.
The one subject on which Mr Dini remained silent yesterday was how long he hoped to remain in power. Eighteen months or two years might be ideal for his programme. But with parliament in civil war between pro- and anti-Berlusconi camps, he may not last that long.
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...
£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...