Technocrat faces rough ride in Italy

As Italian government crises go, it was unusually short but also unusually vicious. Just 22 days elapsed between the collapse of Silvio Berlusconi's coalition and the appointment yesterday of Lamberto Dini, the austere outgoing Treasury Minister, as Prime Minister.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power