Italy's victorious Olive Tree sapped by the hunt for allies

Three days after its historic victory, Italy's centre-left Olive Tree coalition is getting a taste of the obstacles ahead, as it struggles with its own internal contradictions, weighs up the choice of allies it needs for a majority in parliament, and fights off lingering fears of the man it beat, Silvio Berlusconi.

Although euphoria remains high and the authority of the prime minister- to-be, Romano Prodi, remains unquestioned, the various branches of the Olive Tree are already swaying to different rhythms.

The centrist wing, led by the outgoing Prime Minister, Lamberto Dini, has begun wooing the moderate faction of Mr Berlusconi's centre-right, to make up the numbers in parliament. It is already talking of the recomposition of the old Christian Democrats as a buffer force between the ex-communist left and the ex-fascist right.

The main left-wing party, the PDS is busy flirting with the party Mr Dini found hardest to keep on his side during his 15 months in government, the far-left Rifondazione Comunista. "Rifondazione is our ally," said Giovanna Melandri, a PDS member. "We will have to see what we can and what we can't agree on together with it."

Rifondazione is tied to the Olive Tree by an electoral pact that served both of them well. But the two groups have little in common. Mr Prodi wants austerity budgets to bring Italy's public debt into line for European monetary union, which Rifondazione opposed tooth and nail when Mr Dini proposed it.

On Tuesday, Mr Prodi said he hoped to privatise the state telecommunications company, Stet, by the end of the year, as part of a programme to sell off state assets. Yesterday, Rifondazione's leader, Fausto Bertinotti, said he could never accept this. "We have to create a big public sphere for mass communications, just as we did earlier this century with the education system," he said.

Mr Bertinotti, a curious mixture of cloth-cap trade unionist and radical- chic fashion- victim, wants a wealth tax on unearned income and guarantees that state workers' salaries will be index-linked, although this was abolished in the early 1990s because it fuelled inflation.

Such proposals are out of the question if Mr Prodi wants to maintain his moderate image and retain the confidence of the international community. He has said the Olive Tree's programme will stay as it is and it is up to Rifondazione to decide whether it wants to play along.

That means, in practice, that the Olive Tree will have to look elsewhere for support on economic and budgetary issues, either to the volatile Northern League or to disenchanted members of Mr Berlusconi's centre-right.

The Olive Tree's fragility is also affecting the choice of ministers. A struggle is developing over the future role of Luciano Violante, a distinguished anti-Mafia magistrate who would normally be a natural for the justice ministry.

Mr Berlusconi, who has problems with the judiciary, has made it clear he would take the nomination of Mr Violante as a hostile gesture.

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 year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there