Italian PM menaced by attack on two fronts

Italy's Prime Minister, Lamberto Dini, faces a two-pronged attack on his nine-month-old government from both the right and the far left today as Italy heads into a new political crisis. Fired up by the acrimonious dismissal of the Justice Minister, Filippo Mancuso, the centre-right coalition led by Mr Dini's predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, and the far-left Rifondazione Comunista last night announced that they were teaming up to mount a parliamentary no-confidence vote.

The two sides said that despite their different outlooks, they would club together to destroy Mr Dini, a decision that threatens to wreak chaos for months and throw the economy into disarray just when it has begun to impose some order on its debt-ridden public finances.

If their MPs follow party lines in the debate starting today, they will defeat Mr Dini by a narrow margin and thereby scupper the remainder of his policy programme, including the 1996 budget, which has been presented to parliament but has yet to be approved.

Its suspension would embarrass Italy as it prepares to take over the European Union presidency for six months from January and risk relegating it definitively from the premier league of European nations.

Traders on Italy's financial markets, sensing the storm, sold lire yesterday and pushed the Milan bourse's Mibtel index to its lowest level.

Mr Dini's seemingly thriving non-political administration has suddenly been sucked into the kind of venomous power games that used to plague the country in the darkest days of the old Christian Democrat-led political order.

The crisis erupted on Thursday, when Mr Mancuso, a career jurist whose attacks on anti-corruption magistrates had alienated him from public opinion and his own government colleagues, was defeated in a no-confidence motion - unprecedented for an individual minister - in the Senate.

He responded on the Senate floor with an attack on Mr Dini and President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, accusing them of conniving at grave abuses at the Milan prosecutor's office. He had a text of his speech distributed to journalists. It contained more damaging allegations of undue interference by Mr Scalfaro. He also appealed against his removal to the Constitutional Court, which is due to discuss it today.

Mr Mancuso's performance struck a chord with Mr Berlusconi, who goes on trial in January on corruption charges related to his Fininvest business empire. The media tycoon's Freedom Alliance immediately subscribed to every one of the Justice Minister's accusations and accused Mr Dini of trying to get rid of Mr Mancuso for base political reasons.

A no-confidence motion swiftly followed but Mr Dini let it be known he had no intention of resigning without a fight in parliament.

President Scalfaro, meanwhile, rebuffed the accusations against him one by one and accused Mr Mancuso, through a spokesman, of spreading smears like a mafioso.

As though a full-scale battle between politicians and the institutions of state were not enough, Rifondazione Comunista then emerged with its own plans to get rid of Mr Dini, accusing him of exacerbating the gulf between rich and poor in his latest budget proposals and arguing that his interim mandate had gone far enough.

Rifondazione Comunista was unable to drum up enough signatures to present its own no-confidence motion, so it finally decided to tag along with Mr Berlusconi.

The vote is expected to take place on Thursday.

Mr Dini has faced no-confidence votes before, and won them because deputies finally understood the urgency of his attempts to solve Italy's economic problems and broke with party ranks in sufficient numbers to keep him in power.

This time, however, will be closer than ever. If Mr Dini loses, the President is likely to call general elections before Christmas to keep the political damage to a minimum.

But even if he wins, he will not be out of the woods. Mr Berlusconi has threatened to order his coalition to resign en masse, or at the very least to sabotage the budget when it comes up for debate. This is a crisis that will not go away.

Currency turmoil, page 20

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Kim Sears is reported to have directed abuse at Berdych
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee