End of Emergency Period in Sight for Italian Politics

End of Emergency Period in Sight for Italian Politics

The Italian political landscape is slowly changing. In the past few weeks, major shifts have occurred in the leadership and structure of both the key parties of the left-right coalition that is supporting the government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta.

Developments in the center-right directly affected the size and composition of the parliamentary majority backing the cabinet. Due to his conviction for tax fraud, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was expelled from the Senate in late-November. Earlier that month, Berlusconi had decided to sink his People of Freedom Party (PdL) and relaunch Forza Italia, the movement of his 1994 political debut. This move was meant to foster a “militant” twist in the center-right’s political attitude: namely, a tougher defense of Berlusconi himself and a more confrontational approach toward the government. But the moderate wing of the PdL, led by Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, once Berlusconi’s right-hand man and heir apparent, refused to follow this militant line. Instead of joining Forza Italia, Alfano founded an autonomous movement called New Center-Right. On the eve of Berlusconi’s expulsion from parliament, Forza Italia officially withdrew its support to the cabinet. Hence, Alfano’s group alone now represents the center-right within the coalition government, while Berlusconi, from outside parliament, is heading a separate group, presently in opposition.

New Center-Right only inherited around one-third of the former PdL parliamentary seats, forcing Letta to ask for a new parliamentary vote of confidence, which he won Dec. 11. After the vote, Letta could claim that his political majority was now thinner but more homogeneous, and he announced a vast program of institutional and economic reforms.

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