Italy’s Government Collapses

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned yesterday after a no-confidence vote in parliament that was, to say the least, contentious, the New York Times reports:

ROME — Italy’s government finally fell Thursday, after Prime Minister Romano Prodi lost a confidence vote that made it clear that Italy’s leaders know they face a deep political and economic crisis but are venomously divided over how to solve it.

Emblematic of those divisions, during the debate one senator rushed in fury to the desk of a colleague, Stefano Cusumano, and taunted and apparently tried to attack him. Mr. Cusumano, 60, reportedly cried, then collapsed.

“If I had the chance, I would have spit in his face,” said the attacker, Senator Tommaso Barbato, who had to be held back by his colleagues. His action came after Mr. Cusumano changed his vote to support Mr. Prodi.

After the vote, which Mr. Prodi lost 161 to 156, he submitted his resignation, ending his 20 turbulent months in office and the 61st government here since World War II.

In an article for World Politics Review back in October, Erica Alini reported that such a collapse was possible, despite, or perhaps because of, efforts to stabilize the governing coalition:

ROME — A design to create a unified party of the center-left in Italy risks undermining the very government it supports and is unlikely to appease Italians, who are increasingly disgruntled with the political status quo in their country.

The new Partito Democratico (Democratic Party) will officially be born on Oct. 14, when Italians will choose the party’s leadership and constituent assembly in nationwide primary elections. But many fear that the baptism of the new center-left party will be the last rites for Prodi and his troubled government.

Italy’s fractious ruling coalition, lead by Prime Minister Romano Prodi, has seemed to be on the verge of collapse several times since it won the elections in April 2006. Many Italians, dissatisfied with the previous reform-shy conservative government, had hoped Prodi would bring about a much-needed change in the state of politics and the economy. But the election of the center-left was no turning point. Forced to bargain with a multitude of political allies, the government has been unable to undertake the bold reforms it promised during the election campaign.

The Democratic Party (DP) is aimed at bringing stability to the riotous government majority by merging, among others, the two main parties of the Italian moderate left, the catholic Margherita and the socialist Democratici di Sinistra. However, its looming birth has scared a constellation of minor political allies who helped build the government’s majority in Parliament.

“The birth of the DP will upset the existing power balance in the coalition, and smaller parties are afraid that they will no longer have access to policymaking,” says Marco Tarchi, who teaches political science at the University of Florence. If smaller allies bid farewell, the center-left government would lose the required majority of 160 in the Senate and capitulate.

Read the entire article.

The above-cited NYT article was a selection from today’s WPR Media Roundup. Don’t miss must-read news and commentary on international affairs. Sign up now to receive the roundup every weekday.

More World Politics Review