Italy in the Early 2000’s Part 3

The tensions on the issues of work and19 March in Bologna by the new Red Brigades, by the jurist M. Biagi, consultant to the Minister of Welfare and involved in defining the technical aspects deriving from the changes to labor regulations. The return of terrorism, limited as it might appear, was no less alarming since almost three years had passed without the perpetrators of the killing having been identified (which took place in Rome on 20 May 1999 and claimed by the BR) of M. D’Antona, jurist and consultant of the center-left government for labor problems. At the beginning of July the question of the lack of supplies for the protection of Biagi, despite his pressing requests, and some inappropriate statements about the jurist escaped from the Minister of the Interior C. Scajola (already discussed for the events in Genoa) forced his resignation and the its replacement with G. Pisanu. Despite the Ruggiero and Scajola cases and the less relevant ones of the undersecretaries C. Taormina degli Interni and V. Sgarbi of Cultural Heritage, both protagonists of politically inappropriate attitudes and removed from their posts, the government had managed to remain substantially united thanks to the hegemonic function of Berlusconi, but also for the 2002 in the Union of Christian Democrats and Center, UDC). The opposition, which could also boast, by virtue of the rediscovered unity of all its components, a significant success in the spring partial administrative (with the conquest of cities such as Verona, Piacenza, Gorizia), was crossed by permanent divisions and discounted the problems deriving from a weak leadership, while a part of the left was attracted by the temptation of a radicalization of the political confrontation in the wake of popular consensus for the CGIL line. These were choices destined to put in difficulty especially the DS (led by P. Fassino) whose reformist choice was in fact questioned by a part of the left electorate ready to mobilize in new forms (such as the ‘girotondi’) in defense of the judiciary, focusing on the opposition of the majority and its leader. Berlusconi in turn, still under investigation in some proceedings, continued in declarations aimed at delegitimizing the judiciary, defining it as a corporate, politicized, non-elective body. The reform of the judiciary (approved in July 2005 after Ciampi had sent back to the Chambers a previous version of the delegating law) and the correlated separation of the career of the prosecuting magistracy from the judging one (separation opposed by the magistrates’ associations and then suspended in October 2006 by the new majority), continued to divide public opinion and political forces throughout the legislature. On the judicial front, with two sentences of the Cassation, of Nov. 2003 and of the oct. 2004, the trials involving the former Prime Minister G. Andreotti came to an end with the final acquittal.

The long-standing issue of conflict of interest remained open despite the approval of a regulatory law in July 2004. The center-left was reproached for not being able to legislate when it was a majority in Parliament, perhaps in the illusion of keeping Berlusconi in check, but the problem was objectively difficult to solve since it was a question of intervening after the Milanese entrepreneur entered politics in ways that did not were detrimental to its political and proprietary rights. The law (proposed in Sept. 2001by Minister F. Frattini) who established the incompatibility with management, but not with mere ownership, rejecting the hypothesis of sale or fiduciary management of the companies and entrusting the possible emergence of the conflict of interest to a specific authority, continued to divide public opinion. And how relevant the issue was for Italian democracy, especially in relation to the political control exercised also on public television by the owner of the major private television networks, was confirmed by the interventions of President Ciampi in defense of pluralism in information.

Another field in which the center-right government accentuated the differences with the previous five years was foreign policy, inspired in the first place by Berlusconi. He immediately made the strong choice to align himself with the US positions and the policies of President GW Bush and Blair, inevitably suffering tensions and friction with other members of the European Union (such as France and Germany) more critical of Anglo-American initiatives.. Initiatives that culminated in the war on Irāq (March 2003): a decision supported by the Italian government not with participation in war operations, but with the dispatch of a military contingent, stationed in Nassiriyah, with functions of control and restoration of order in that province (June 2003 -dec.2006).

Beyond the deep and widespread emotion following the attack that in Nassiryiah, on 12 Nov. 2003, it made 19 victims (five soldiers, twelve carabinieri and two civilians), the country was divided on the opportunity of the Italian participation in the military occupation in ̔Irāq, above all with the affirmation of the conviction that the justifications of the Anglo-American intervention – possession of weapons of mass destruction – were unfounded and that the factors of crisis in the Middle Eastwere accentuated rather than diminished. Other divisions manifested themselves in public opinion and in the country on the issue of medically assisted procreation: transversal divisions, which did not exactly reflect the political alignments, between those who supported a broader liberalization and those who believed it necessary to put strict limits on a now widespread practice, also referring to the magisterium of the Catholic Church. Approved in February 2004, the law seemed to displease many, not only on the left, but the referendum subsequently promoted by radicals and diessini to repeal some parts (in particular those relating to the prohibition of heterologous fertilization and scientific research on embryonic stem cells) did not obtain the necessary quorum (12-13June 2005 the voters were just over 25 %). The Italian Bishops’ Conference and many Catholic movements called for abstention, while the political forces were divided with PRC, PdCI, IdV and Greens, as well as DS and radicals, in favor of abrogation, Lega Nord, UDC and UDEUR abstentionists while AN, Forza Italia and La Margherita left their constituents free. It was an expected result that also testified to the difficulty of calling citizens to settle complex ethical issues and personal life choices with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. From a political point of view, the decline of the instrument of the abrogative referendum was confirmed since 1995, in five different consultations, he had never reached the majority of those entitled to vote. However, when more obviously political issues would come into play, as in the case of the institutional reform approved by the center-right in Nov. 2005, the subsequent confirmatory referendum – a form of consultation that does not depend on the achievement of the quorum – instead saw (on 25-26 June 2006) a participation in the vote of 53.7%. On that occasion, 61.3 % of voters spoke out against a reform that profoundly changed the 1948 Constitution introducing a federal Senate, reducing the powers of the President of the Republic and strengthening those of the Prime Minister (giving him the power to dissolve the Chambers), greatly expanding the competences of the Regions (in the field of health, education and administrative police, for example) well beyond what was established in 2001. Firmly wanted by the CdL, and above all by the Lega and Forza Italia, and approved by Parliament against an impotent opposition to hinder it, the reform was opposed by many constitutionalists and did not find sufficient consensus in the country (except in Lombardy and Veneto). On minor issues, some new laws relating to the jurisdiction of the courts and the reduction of the statute of limitations for crimes continued to cause concern to a large part of public opinion. These were rules that seemed aimed at obtaining the immediate result of reducing the risks of punishment of the Prime Minister and other personalities connected to him, and were included in the recurrent bitter dispute between Berlusconi and the representative bodies of the judiciary.

During 2004, according to vaultedwatches.com, signs of a center-right consensus crisis began to be felt. In the European elections in June, the center-left parties surpassed, albeit slightly, the result of the CDL, while the success achieved in the contemporary administrative consultations was more significant. In the regional elections of the following year, the center-left would have won 12 of the 14 administrations up for grabs (Molise remained in the center-right in 2006) leaving only Lombardy and Veneto to the CdL: these two regions represented the backbone of the alliance between Lega and Forza Italia. But the way in which the interests and values ​​expressed in that area of ​​widespread entrepreneurship were protected by, in the first place, the Minister of Economy G. Tremonti displeased the allies of AN and the UDC who had their largest settlement in the Center-South. Tremonti resigned in July 2004 and was replaced by Fr Siniscalco, but the tensions within the majority did not abate. The constant and not too underground theme was the leadership of the center-right, with UDC secretary M. Follini contesting Berlusconi’s absolute hegemony in the CDL. At the end of 2004 the most restless exponents, Fini and Follini, respectively obtained the Foreign Ministry and the Vice-Presidency of the Council. After the 2005 regional elections, the game reopened and Berlusconi was forced to resign and form a new government. Fini retained his offices, while Tremonti first became vice-president of the Council and then re-obtained the Ministry of Economy. Follini, on the other hand, remained outside the government and the UDC was one of the major supporters of a new electoral law on a proportional basis aimed at giving greater weight and visibility to individual political groups. The law, approved in dec. 2005, combined the return to the proportional with a majority premium attributed to the winning coalition, calculated nationally for the Chamber and on a regional basis for the Senate. Membership in the coalition neutralized the barrier placed on unrelated lists (4 % in the Chamber, 8 % in the Senate) thus facilitating the proliferation of small groups.

Italy in the Early 2000's 3