Italy still far from reform as rightists push for early poll



Italy's attempts to form a new government with a mandate to introduce wide-ranging constitutional reforms were on the verge of collapse yesterday, raising the prospect of a lame-duck administration seeing out the remainder of the country's presidency of the European Union, and general elections before the summer holidays.

Failing a last-minute reversal of fortune (always possible in this most tawdry of political climates), Antonio Maccanico is expected to resign his mandate as prime minister-designate today after 12 fraught days of negotiations with party leaders.

Mr Maccanico managed to put together the blueprint for a deal on creating a new political system, modelled on the French co-existence of a president with some executive powers and a prime minister in charge of the government. But in the last few days his efforts have been given the thumbs-down by Gianfranco Fini, leader of the formerly neo-fascist National Alliance, who has been the driving force behind more than a month of crisis.

It was Mr Fini who forced the resignation of the outgoing Prime Minister, Lamberto Dini, on the grounds that he had betrayed his non-political mandate and become identified with the centre-left. It was Mr Fini who insisted on putting constitutional reform on the agenda, with the aim of greatly increasing the authority of the President, and succeeded in bringing much of the political establishment along with him.

Now, however, Mr Fini appears to believe he has more to gain from early elections than from a largely technocratic government under Mr Maccanico which could easily drift away from his tough stance on constitutional reform.

Yesterday the leader of the main left-wing party, Massimo D'Alema, sought to make political capital from such intransigence, urging Mr Fini's coalition partner, Silvio Berlusconi, not to let himself be "paralysed by the arrogance or the sly manoeuvres of one of his allies". Regardless of Mr Fini, however, the truth is that Mr Maccanico's efforts appeared doomed from the start, since no Italian parliament as divided as this one was ever likely to approve sweeping changes to the basic tenets governing the country's political life. Moreover, any government of his would have had to bridge the vast gulfs separating left and right on such issues as budgetary policy and fiscal management.

Mr Fini said as much over the weekend, remarking: "A government cannot be created this way ... without economic policy being discussed even for a minute." Yesterday similar sentiments were expressed by Romano Prodi, leader of the centre-left coalition made up of Mr D'Alema's PDS and a collection of progressive Christian Democrats. "This parliament, which hasn't managed to take any big decisions and lives in the shadow of government by decree, cannot be the one to take on the job of changing the structure and foundations of our country," he said.

If Mr Maccanico, a lifelong backroom wheeler-dealer with little public profile in Italy or abroad, does resign, President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro will have little option but to think about a general election. Sources at the presidential palace said he would favour asking Mr Dini to revive his government long enough to see Italy through the European Union's crucial Inter-Governmental Conference in Turin at the end of next month and then head for elections in June.

Such an outcome would please almost nobody, since there is no guarantee the next parliament would be any more stable than the present one unless changes to the voting system, at the very least, can be introduced first. One result of an election campaign, though, would be to strengthen Mr Fini's position significantly within the conservative coalition still nominally headed by Mr Berlusconi. Mr Berlusconi is not keen to expose himself to the electorate now because he faces trials on corruption charges, and has slipped into the background during the present crisis.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map