2008 Italian political crisis


2008 Italian political crisis

On 24 January 2008 Prime Minister of Italy Romano Prodi lost a vote of confidence in the Senate by a vote of 161 to 156 votes, causing the downfall of his government.cite web | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7208000.stm | title = Prodi loses crucial Senate vote | publisher = BBC | author = | date = 2008-01-24 | accessdate = 2008-01-24] Prodi's resignation led President Giorgio Napolitano to request the president of the Senate, Franco Marini, to assess the possibility to form a caretaker government. The other possibility would have been to call for early elections immediately. Marini acknowledged impossibility to form an interim government due to the unavailability of the centre-right parties, and early elections were scheduled for 13 April and 14 April 2008.

Background

Prodi had at the time been in office for 20 months, after winning the elections of April 2006.cite web | url = http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/24/world/europe/24italy.html?_r=1&oref=slogin | title = Italy Backs Its Coalition but Only Just for Now | publisher = New York Times | author = Ian Fisher | date = 2008-01-24 | accessdate = 2008-01-24] In February 2007, the Prime Minister handed in his resignation, only to be asked to remain by the President, and winning a vote of confidence in the Parliament.cite web | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6406487.stm | title = Prodi's fragile bloc struggles on | publisher = BBC | author = | date = 2007-02-28 | accessdate = 2008-01-24]

The coalition on which Prodi had built his government, called The Union, consisted of a large number of smaller parties. This situation was in turn the result of an electoral system of proportional representation, due to legislation passed by Berlusconi three months before he lost power.cite web | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7208705.stm | title = Will Italian opposition's glee last? | publisher = BBC | author = Christian Fraser | date = 2008-01-25 | accessdate = 2008-01-27] It was when the leader of one of these lesser parties, Justice Minister Clemente Mastella of UDEUR, came under investigation for corruption that the coalition started to break up. When the media reported an extensive corruption investigation involving Mastella and his wife – an UDEUR politician in Campania – Mastella resigned.cite web | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7191413.stm | title = Italian justice minister resigns | publisher = BBC | author = | date = 2008-01-16 | accessdate = 2008-01-27]

After first promising to support the government, he later retracted this support, and his party followed, in part also due to pressure from the Vatican, for which the government's proposed laws in regards to registered partnerships of same-sex couples, and other liberal reforms were objectionable.cite web | url = http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1706790,00.html?xid=rss-world | title = How An Italian Government Falls | publisher = TIME | author = Jeff Israely | date = 2008-01-24 | accessdate = 2008-01-27]

The decision of former Minister of Justice Mastella arrived a few days after the confirmation of the Constitutional Court which confirmed the referendum to modify the electoral system. [ [http://www.reuters.com/article/bondsNews/idUSL1685828620080116 "Italian court okays referendum on election law"] Reuters, January 16th 2008 ] As stated many times by Minister Mastella, if the referendum would have been confirmed this would lead directly to the fall of the government [ [http://www.corriere.it/Primo_Piano/Politica/2007/04_Aprile/10/legge_elettorale_mastella_referendum.shtml "Legge elettorale, Mastella minaccia la crisi"] "Corriere della Sera", April 10 2007] [ [http://www.lastampa.it/redazione/cmsSezioni/politica/200704articoli/20302girata.asp "Mastella: Se c'è referendum si rischia la crisi di governo"] "La Stampa", April 10 2007] and it happened. The fall of the government would disrupt a pending election-law referendum that if passed would make it harder for small parties like Mastella's to gain seats in parliament. [ [http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aEv_XkZP2lg0&refer=home "Prodi Likely to Quit, Prompt Vote or Election Reform"] Bloomberg.com]

UDEUR's defection forced the question of whether Prodi still had the parliamentarian support to govern. Presenting a motion of confidence to parliament, he won relatively easily in the lower house of the Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, where the coalition's majority was substantial. Yet a win in the upper house – or Senate – seemed unlikely, and President Giorgio Napolitano was said to have warned against going through with the vote.

The vote, held between 3pm and 9pm (CET), was heated and dramatic.it icon cite web | url = http://www.corriere.it/politica/08_gennaio_24/mussi_elezioni_anticipate_0aa4638e-ca5c-11dc-bbdc-0003ba99c667.shtml | title = Prodi sconfitto in Senato: cade il governo, Il premier al Quirinale per le dimissioni | publisher = Corriere della Sera | author = | date = 2008-01-24 | accessdate = 2008-01-24] During its course the UDEUR party Senator Stefano Cusumano decided to confirm the confidence and to support the prime minister, even against the orders of his party's leader. He was subsequently subjected to the abuse of his colleagues, being called an "hysteric faggot", "traitor", and reportedly spat on by a member of the conservative UDEUR party. At this point Cusumano apparently fainted, and was carried out on a stretcher.it icon cite web | url = http://www.corriere.it/politica/08_gennaio_24/cusumano_nuccio_udeur_02cef526-ca8d-11dc-bbdc-0003ba99c667.shtml | title = Cusumano si dissocia: voto sì. È bagarre | publisher = Corriere della Sera | author = | date = 2008-01-24 | accessdate = 2008-01-24] Cusumano's defection had no effect, however: Prodi lost the vote with 161 to 156 votes (one member abstained from voting, while three were absent), and promptly handed in his resignation. On the announcement of the result certain members of the opposition started celebrating with champagne and by eating Mortadella.

Attempts at a resolution

On 30 January, Napolitano appointed Franco Marini to try to form a caretaker government with the goal of changing the current electoral system, rather than call a quick election.it icon cite web | url = http://www.corriere.it/politica/08_gennaio_30/casini_no_marini_6ef4ecdc-cf16-11dc-8e3f-0003ba99c667.shtml | title = Crisi, Napolitano incarica Marini | publisher = Corriere della Sera | author = | date = 2008-01-30 | accessdate = 2008-01-30] The state of the electoral system had been under criticism not only within the outgoing government, but also among the opposition and in the general population, because of the impossibility to choose candidates directly and of the risks that a close-call election may not grant a stable majority in the Senate.

After Marini was given the mandate, two politicians (Bruno Tabacci and Mario Baccini) splintered from the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats to form the White Rose, while two leading members of the Forza Italia faction Liberal-Popular Union (Ferdinando Adornato and Angelo Sanza) switched allegiance to the UDC. On 4 February, the Liberal Populars (an UDC faction which favours merging with Forza Italia) seceded from UDC to join Berlusconi's Freedom People later this year.

On 4 February 2008 Marini acknowledged that he had failed to find the necessary majority for an interim government, [ [http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/world/20080204-1053-italy-government-.html SignOnSanDiego.com > News > World - Italy Senate speaker fails to form govt, vote looms ] ] and resigned his mandate, [ [http://www.hemscott.com/news/latest-news/item.do?newsId=58999966030362 Italy's Marini says no majority for electoral reform govt, resigns mandate | Latest News | News | Hemscott ] ] after having met with all major political forces and having found opposition to forming an interim government mainly from center-right parties Forza Italia and Alleanza Nazionale, favoured in a possible next election and strongly in favour of an early vote.it icon cite web | url = http://www.corriere.it/politica/08_gennaio_30/berlusconi_subito_voto_legge_elettorale_non_va_cambiata_f651eab4-cf5b-11dc-8e3f-0003ba99c667.shtml | title = «A Marini diremo: "subito al voto"» | publisher = Corriere della Sera | author = | date = 2008-01-30 | accessdate = 2008-01-30] ,

President Napolitano summoned Bertinotti and Marini, the two speakers of the houses of the Italian parliament, acknowledging the end of the legislature, on 5 February 2008.it icon cite web | url = http://www.ansa.it/opencms/export/site/visualizza_fdg.html_12342748.html | title = DOMANI LO SCIOGLIMENTO DELLE CAMERE | publisher = Ansa | author = | date = 2008-02-05 | accessdate = 2008-02-05] He dissolved parliament on 6 February 2008. Elections were held on 13 April and 14 April 2008, [ [http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jJDXtKn83PJ0X2f_f8ALmkK4-G7g AFP: Italy heads towards fresh elections ] ] together with the administrative elections.it icon cite web | url = http://www.ansa.it/opencms/export/site/visualizza_fdg.html_12342748.html | title = DOMANI LO SCIOGLIMENTO DELLE CAMERE | publisher = Ansa | author = | date = 2008-02-05 | accessdate = 2008-02-05] The elections resulted in a decisive victory for Berlusconi's Freedom People coalition. [cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7347618.stm|title=Italy returns Berlusconi to power|date=2008-04-15|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-07-23]

ee also

*Politics of Italy
*List of prime ministers of Italy
*Italian general election, 2006
*Prodi II Cabinet
*Italian general election, 2008

References


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