Left in wave of euphoria as a new era dawns
Italian election: Red flag flies again after 50 years as Olive Tree coalition sees off Berlusconi and pledges a new stability
Tuesday 23 April 1996
Mr D'Alema's party has travelled a long way towards the political centre since its birth out of the ashes of the old Communist Party six years ago, but under the circumstances, he could not resist a throwback to the old tradition. "Finally we have brought this symbol into government," he said, standing on the balcony of the party's historic headquarters on the Via delle Botteghe Oscure and waving a hammer-and-sickle flag.
A crowd began chanting "Enrico, Enrico" in memory of Enrico Berlinguer, the visionary Communist leader of the 1970s who spent his life trying unsuccessfully to forge a "historic compromise" to bring his party to power alongside the Christian Democrats.
What Mr Berlinguer failed to achieve during the Cold war, however, Mr D'Alema has managed in its messy aftermath. The victorious Olive Tree coalition, linking the PDS with a myriad of centrist, Christian Democrat and environmentalist groups, is really the historic compromise made flesh.
Mr D'Alema has been its architect, but a moderate economics professor, Romano Prodi, has the task of forming the next government. The Olive Tree won an absolute majority in the Senate, the upper house of parliament, and pulled significantly ahead of Silvio Berlusconi's Freedom Alliance in the Chamber of Deputies.
In the lower house, however, Mr Prodi will have to rely on at least the tacit support of one of two protest groups - the far-left Rifondazione Comunista, with which the Olive Tree had an electoral pact, and the volatile Northern League, which outstripped all expectations by garnering some 11 per cent of the national vote.
Despite the fragility of the result, a wave of euphoria swept over the country indicating the arrival of something truly new in Italian politics. The financial markets reacted by marking up the value of the much-battered lira, and the outgoing prime minister, Lamberto Dini, an ally of Mr Prodi's, was confident interest rates would soon fall.
What was immediately noticeable was a sharp change in tone, from the aggressive, almost paranoid rantings of Mr Berlusconi and his allies in the neo-fascist National Alliance, to the conciliatory tones of the Olive Tree. Apart from his one nostalgic reference to the past, Mr D'Alema was quick to point out that aggression and the desire for revenge were not part of the new political culture.
Faced with cries of "Let's put Berlusconi in jail!", Mr D'Alema retorted: "No - that's the way the right behaves, not us." Mr Prodi, meanwhile, pledged cross-party talks on constitutional reform to end Italy's chronic instability.
The Freedom Alliance, by contrast, found it extraordinarily difficult to concede defeat. Mr Berlusconi, who has scarcely been off the television screens for two years, did not react until last night, when he claimed unconvincingly his side had in fact won more votes. Earlier he was reported to have said "see you all abroad", perhaps less of a joke than it sounds given his deepening problems with anti-corruption magistrates.
The biggest disappointment on the right was for Gianfranco Fini's reformed neo-fascists, who had hoped to reach 20 per cent of the vote, putting them level or even ahead of Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia. But they wound up with just 15 per cent, five points behind Forza.
The result was particularly awkward for Mr Fini, who singlehandedly provoked the election by pulling out of all-party talks on constitutional reform in February. His push for a presidential style of government, which had made considerable headway in the negotiations, is now likely to be replaced with a less centralised, less radical kind of reform.
The first job of the new parliament, which will not convene until 9 May, will be to elect speakers in the two chambers. Only then can formal talks on forming a government take place, although by then it should be reasonably clear what shape the new administration will take.
Early indications suggest Mr Prodi as prime minister, his number two Walter Veltroni as deputy, Mr Dini as either treasury or foreign minister, and the anti-Mafia magistrate Luciano Violante as justice minister. One key job will be the minister of posts and telecommunications, responsible for broadcasting. Mr Berlusconi could well lose one or more of his three television channels.
Leading article, page 16
Comment, page 17
Hamish McRae, page 22
The magicians using online collaboration to push the boundaries
Jennifer Lawrence attacks mass media again over body image
Paris charity auction staged to save the ancient city of Tyre
scienceScientists find the answer to a question that even puzzled Darwin
A very timely Great Train Robbery and a frantic 24 Hours in A&E among the highlights
Jennifer Lawrence: 'It should be illegal to call someone fat on TV'
Colin Farrell reveals ‘affair’ with Elizabeth Taylor: 'She was my last romantic relationship'
Ian Watkins: Paedophile Lostprophets singer sentenced to 35 years for child sex offences, as judge labels him a 'dangerous sexual predator'
Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
Devyani Khobragade: India-US row escalates over arrest of diplomat in New York
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Fox News presenter tells viewers it is a 'fact' that both Jesus and Santa Claus are white
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber announces he's 'retiring from music'
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >
£25000 - £32000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Business Analyst - Banking...
£21999 - £27001 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have exten...
£25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Business Analy...
£42000 - £51000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Are You Receiving...