Vote gives Prodi a crumb of comfort

Provisional results from this weekend's local elections confirmed the deep structural paralysis at the heart of Italian politics yesterday, with neither of the two main coalition blocs making significant gains over the other and small fringe parties holding enormous sway over the final outcome.

The good news for Romano Prodi's centre-left government was that it did not go down to crashing defeat, as some had predicted, after a year of weak leadership and enormous sacrifices demanded of the people in an attempt to qualify on time for for European monetary union.

But the centre-right opposition, led by the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and the reformed neo-Fascist leader Gianfranco Fini, could claim only the most tenuous of leads, since most of the biggest prizes on offer will have to be decided in a run-off in two weeks' time.

In the big economic centres of the north, the opposition was ahead in Milan and Turin but trailing in Trieste.

The biggest gains, meanwhile, were registered by the far-left protest party Rifondazione Comunista, the group Mr Prodi has been forced to accommodate to make up a majority in the lower house of parliament but whose ideological posturings have made life hell for him.

Already yesterday the leader of Rifondazione, Fausto Bertinotti was warning that the forthcoming round of negotiations on welfare reform, which are deemed essential if Italy is to qualify for the single European currency, would only win his support if they did not entail any public spending cuts.

That stance, if it is maintained, will sabotage any serious attempts at reform and will almost certainly bring down Mr Prodi's government.

The evident paralysis is good news in one sense, since an extraordinary cross-party commission is currently drawing up changes to the constitution in an attempt to make Italy more governable. The election results might just spur them into making intelligent electoral reforms.

The big loser this weekend was another fringe party, the Northern League, whose calls for secession from the rest of Italy sealed its defeat in Milan, where it had occupied the mayor's office. The party was defeated also in a host of other northern cities and provinces.

The League's mercurial leader, Umberto Bossi, seemed unperturbed by his party's poor showing. Indeed, he positively crowed about the defeat of mayor Marco Formentini in Milan, since Mr Formentini is an outspoken opponent of secession.

Asked whom the League would support in the second round, he said the party would not even bother to campaign. "We'll send everybody off to the mountains," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy