History of the Italian Republic


History of the Italian Republic

After World War II and the overthrow of Mussolini's fascist regime, Italy's history was dominated by the "Democrazia Cristiana" (DC - Christian-Democrats) party for forty years, while the opposition was led by the Italian Communist Party (PCI); this condition endured until the "Tangentopoli" scandal and operation "Mani pulite", which led to the dissolving of most of the Italian parties.

In 1994, in the midst of the "mani pulite" operation which shook most political parties, media magnate Silvio Berlusconi won the elections, becoming one of Italy's most important figures for the next decade, owner of three private TV channels. Ousted after a few months of government, he returned to power in 2001, but lost the general election five years later to Romano Prodi and his Union coalition.

The Birth of the Republic (1946)

In the final phases of the Second World War, the discredited king Victor Emmanuel III tried to raise the prestige of the monarchy by nominating his son and heir Umberto II "general lieutenant of the kingdom" and promising that after the end of the war the Italian people could choose its form of government through a referendum. In April 1945, the Allies' advance in the Po plain (supported by the Italian anti-fascist resistance) defeated the fascist Salo Republic, a puppet state instituted by Nazi Germany.

The Italian monarchy was abolished by a popular referendum held on 2 June 1946. A new constitution was written for the new republic, taking effect on January 1, 1948. The referendum at the origin of the Italian republic was, however, the object of deep discussion, mainly because of some contested results and of the deep divide which emerged between the North (where the Republic won a clear majority) and the South (where the monarchists gained the majority).

Elections after World War II (1946–1948)

In 1946, the main Italian political parties were:
* Christian Democrats (DC)
* Italian Socialist Party (PSI)
* Italian Communist Party (PCI)

Each party had run separate candidates in the 1946 general election, and the Christian Democrats won a plurality of votes. The PSI and the PCI received some ministerial posts in a Christian Democrat–led coalition cabinet. PCI’s leader Palmiro Togliatti was minister of Justice. However, as in France where Maurice Thorez and four other communist ministers were forced to leave Paul Ramadier's government during the May 1947 crisis, both the Italian Communists (PCI) and Socialists (PSI) were excluded from government the same month.

Since the PSI and the PCI together received more votes than the Christian Democrats, they decided to unite in 1948 to form the Popular Democratic Front (FDP). The FDP won the municipal elections in Pescara with a ten percent increase in their vote compared to the results of 1946. The new party expected to win the upcoming 1948 general election in a similar manner.

The 1948 general elections were heavily influenced by the then flaring cold-war confrontation between the Soviet Union and the US. After the Soviet-inspired February 1948 communist coup in Czechoslovakia the US became alarmed about Soviet intentions and feared that the Soviet funded [cite web
last = Wyatt
first = Mark
title = Interview with Mark Wyatt (CIA), 15/2/96
url = http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/coldwar/interviews/episode-3/wyatt2.html
accessdate = 2007-08-31
] [cite web
last = Riva
first = Valerio
title = RUBLI DA MOSCA AL P.C.I. E SPIE SOVIETICHE IN ITALIA
url = http://www.totustuus.biz/users/rassegnastampa/RIVA_a_Ponsacco.htm
accessdate = 2007-08-31
] PCI would draw Italy into the Soviet Union's sphere of influence if the leftist coalition were to win the elections. In response, on March 1948 the United States National Security Council issued its first document proffering recommendations to avoid such an outcome which were widely and energetically implemented. Ten million letters were sent by mostly Italian Americans urging Italians not to vote communist. US agencies made numerous short-wave propaganda radio broadcasts and funded the publishing of books and articles, warning the Italians of the perceived consequences of a communist victory. The CIA also funded the centre-right political parties and was accused of publishing forged letters in order to discredit the leaders of the PCIFact|date=August 2007. The PCI itself was accused of being funded by Moscow and the Cominform, and in particular via export deals to the Communist countries. [cite web
last = Quinney
first = K. M.
title = My Enemy’s Enemy is My Friend: Italian Immigrants and the Campaign to Defeat Italian Communism
url = http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p114369_index.html
accessdate = 2007-08-31
]

Fears in the Italian electorate of a possible Communist takeover proved crucial for the electoral outcome on the 18th of April; the Christian Democrats ("Democrazia Cristiana"), under the undisputed leadership of Alcide De Gasperi won a resounding victory with 48 percent of the vote (their best result ever, and not repeated since) while the FDP only received 31 percent of the votes. The Communist party widely outdid the Socialists in the distribution of seats in Parliament, and gained a solid position as the main opposition party in Italy. The Communist party would never return in government, but did become part of the government's parliamentary majority in the 1970s historic compromise. For almost four decades, Italian elections were successively won by the "Democrazia Cristiana" (DC) centre-right party.

The First Republic (1947-1992)

Under the 1947 peace treaty, minor adjustments were made to Italy's frontier with France, the eastern border area was transferred to Yugoslavia, and the area around the city of Trieste was designated a free territory. In 1954, the free territory, which had remained under the administration of U.S.–UK forces (Zone A, including the city of Trieste) and Yugoslav forces (Zone B), was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia, principally along the zonal boundary. Italy also lost its colonial Empire, except Somalia, which formed the object of a UN trusteeship mandate, expiring in 1960.

In the fifties Italy became a member of the NATO alliance and an ally of the United States, which helped to revive the Italian economy through the Marshall Plan. In the same years, Italy also became a member of the European Economic Community (EEC), which later transformed into the European Union (EU). At the end of the fifties an impressive economic growth was termed "Economic Miracle", a term that is still recognized in Italian politics (Silvio Berlusconi won the 1994 elections promising a new "Miracle").

During the First Republic, the Christian Democracy slowly but steadily lost support, as society modernised and the traditional values at its ideological core became less appealing to the population. The Christian Democracy's main support areas (sometimes known as "vote tanks") were the rural areas in South, Center and North-East Italy, whereas the industrial North-West had more left-leaning support because of the larger working class. An interesting exception were the "red regions" (Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria) where the Italian Communist Party (and the Democrats of the Left after them) has historically had a wide support. This is considered a consequence of the particular share-cropping ("mezzadria") farming contracts used in these regions.

The Vatican actively supported the Christian Democracy, claiming it would be a "mortal and unforgivable" sin for a catholic to vote for the Communist party and excommunicating outright all its supporters. In practice, however, many Communists remained religious: Emilia was known to be an area where people were both religious and communists. Giovanni Guareschi wrote his novels about Don Camillo describing a village, Brescello, whose inhabitants are at the same time loyal to priest Camillo and communist mayor Giuseppe Bottazzi, who are fierce rivals.

In the 1950s, several important reforms were launched: e.g. agrarian reform (legge Scelba), fiscal reform (legge Vanoni), and the country enjoyed a period of extraordinary economic development ("miracolo economico", e.g. economic miracle). In this period of time, a massive population transfer, from the impoverished South to the booming industrial North, took place. This however exacerbated social contrasts, including between the old-established "worker aristocracy" and the new less qualified immigrants ("operaio-massa") of Southern origin.

Following the 1963 Ciaculli massacre in the suburbs of Palermo, which killed seven police and military officers sent to defuse it after an anonymous phone call, the Italian Parliament voted a December 1962 law which created an Antimafia Commission. The massacre had taken place in the frame of the first Mafia War in the 1960s, with the bomb intended for Salvatore Greco, head of the Sicilian Mafia Commission formed in the late 1950s. The mafia was fighting for the control of the profitable opportunities brought about by rapid urban growth and the heroin trade to North America. The ferocity of the struggle was unprecedented, reaping 68 victims from 1961 to 1963. The Antimafia Commission submitted its final report in 1976. The mafia had created ties with the politician world. The period 1958-1964, when Salvo Lima (DC) was mayor of Palermo and Vito Ciancimino (DC) was assessor for public works, was later referred to as the "Sack of Palermo".

In 1965, the SIFAR intelligence agency was transformed into the SID following an aborted coup d'état, "Piano Solo", which was to give the power to the "Carabinieri", then headed by General De Lorenzo.

The 1950s and 1960s. The "Anni di piombo" and the historic compromise

The shrinking support for the Christian Democrats eventually caused the entry of the Socialist party in the government. The Socialist party had moved, from a position of total subordination to the Communists, to a position of relative autonomy after the 1956 events in Hungary. The possibility of extending the parliamentary majority to the Socialists ("apertura a sinistra") became the main subject of political debate. While right-wing forces deeply opposed it, reformists, socialdemocrats, progressive Catholics supported it. It was thought that a series much-needed reforms ("riforme di struttura") would definitely modernize the country, and create a modern social-democracy.

In 1960, an attempt by the right-wing Christian Democrats to find a new parliamentary majority by incorporating the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement (MSI) in the Tambroni government led to riots, and was defeated. The PSI (Italian Socialist Party) entered government in 1963.

While some important reforms were enacted (nationalization of electric power production; high school reform, introduction of a single junior high school; taxation of financial benefits e.a.), the reformist drive was soon lost, and the most important problems (mafia, social inequalities, inefficient state/social services, North/South imbalance) remained untackled.

The difficult equilibrium of Italian society was challenged by a rising left-wing movement, in the wake of student unrest ("Sessantotto").

This movement was characterized by such heterogeneous events as revolts by jobless farm workers (Avola, Battipaglia 1969), occupations of Universities by students, social unrest in the large Northern factories ("autunno caldo"of 1969). While conservative forces tried to roll back some of the social advances of the sixties, and part of the military indulged in "sabre rattling" in order to intimidate progressive political forces, a minority of left-wing activists became increasingly frustrated at social inequalities, while the myth of guerrilla (Che Guevara, the Uruguayan Tupamaros) and of the Chinese Maoist "cultural revolution" increasingly inspired extreme left-wing violent movements.

The period or the 1970s-early 1980s came to be known as the "anni di piombo" ("years of lead") because of a wave of bombings and shootings — starting with the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing by neofascists — attributed to far-right, far-left and secret services actions. According to statistics by the Ministry of Interior, 67,5% of the violences ("brawls, guerrilla actions, destruction of goods") committed in Italy from 1969 to 1980 are imputable to the far right, 26,5% to the far left, and 5,95% to others. Furthermore, 150 persons were killed in terrorist actions carried out by the far right, and 94 by far left bombings [ See Mauro Galleni, "Rapporto sul terrorismo", Rizzoli, Milan, 1981, quoted by Anne Schimel (Study and Research Center of the Institute of Political Studies), in " [http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/1998/04/SCHIMEL/10247 Justice "de plomb" en Italie] ("Lead" justice in Italy), "Le Monde diplomatique", March 1998 ] .

Social protests, in which the student movement was particularly active, shook Italy during the 1969 "autunno caldo" (Hot Autumn), leading to the occupation of the Fiat factory in Turin. In March 1968, clashes occurred at La Sapienza university in Rome, during the "Battle of Valle Giulia." Mario Capanna, associated with the New Left, was one of the figures of the student movement, along with the members of "Potere Operaio" and "Autonomia Operaia" (Antonio Negri, Oreste Scalzone, Franco Piperno, etc.), "Lotta Continua" (Adriano Sofri, etc.), etc.

In December, four bombings struck in Rome the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II ("Altare della Patria"), the "Banca Nazionale del Lavoro", and in Milan the "Banca Commerciale" and the "Banca Nazionale dell'Agricoltura". The later bombing, known as the Piazza Fontana bombing of 12 December 1969, killed 16 and injured 90, marking the beginning of this violent period.

The police immediately investigated in left-wing circles ',and made numerous arrestations, including Giuseppe Pinelli, an anarchist who was initially blamed for the bombing, as well as Pietro Valpreda. This was hotly contested by the left, especially the student movement, who considered the bombing to be of fascist brand. "Lotta Continua" 's newspaper accused the state security services of being behind the bombing. Giuseppe Pinelli died while in police custody, and the radical left-wing newspaper initiated a campaign accusing police officer Luigi Calabresi of having murdered him. This episode is at the origin of the play by Dario Fo "Morte accidentale di un anarchico". Anarchist Valpreda was detained for three years, judged and sentenced to prison for the bombing. He was released soon afterwards but finally cleared only after 16 years, the Italian state recognizing a miscarriage of justice.

Suspicions on far-right and secret services responsibilities proved to be correct, but only after many years of difficult investigations. The neofascist terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra was finally arrested in the 1980s for another bombing in Peteano, and confessed to magistrate Felice Casson that this false flag attack had been intended to force the Italian state to declare a state of emergency and become authoritarian. Vinciguerra explained how the SISMI military intelligence agency had protected him, allowing him to escape to Franquist Spain. Neo-fascist terrorists from "Ordine Nuovo" were then accused of the crime, and a US Navy officer suspected of being involved in it it icon Cite news | title=Strage di Piazza Fontana - spunta un agente Usa | date=February 11, 1998 | accessdate=2006-05-02 | publisher=La Repubblica | url=http://www.repubblica.it/online/fatti/fontana/fontana/fontana.html (With links to juridical sentences and Parliamentary Report by the Italian Commission on Terrorism) ] .

In December 1970, an abortive neofascist coup dubbed the "Golpe Borghese" was organized. It was planned by several far right figureheads with the support of some military (the"Guardie forestali") and police officers, and the backing of right-aligned entrepreneurs and industrialists. The "Black Prince", Junio Valerio Borghese himself, took part in it, as well as the neofascist terrorist Stefano Delle Chiaie (the latter, engaged in a world crusade against Communism, had contacts with Pinochet's DINA, ex-Nazi Klaus Barbie and with anti-Castro activists such as Luis Posada Carriles). The coup was called off at the last moment, and was discovered by the press and public opinion only months later.

Violent demonstrations took place in Pisa on May 5, 1972, when left-wingers, called upon by "Lotta Continua", tried to prevent a meeting of the neofascist MSI. During the confrontations, a young anarchist, Franco Serantini, was heavily hit by police batons, and died two days later while in prison, deprived of care. On May 17, 1972, police officer Luigi Calabresi was assassinated in Milan. Authorities first pointed out towards some people related to "Lotta Continua", before indicting in 1974 two neofascist activists, Gianni Nardi and Bruno Stefano, along with the German girl Gudrun Kiess. They were finally released. Sixteen years later, Adriano Sofri, Giorgio Pietrostefani and Ovidio Bompressi were arrested in Milan, accused by the confession of Leonardo Marino, one of the participants in the assassination. Highly controversed, the trial concluded, after an alternance of convictions and acquittals, to their guilt. Historian Carlo Ginzburg wrote for the occasion "The Judge and the Historian. Marginal Notes and a Late-Twentieth-century Miscarriage of Justice", in which he criticized the lack of evidence and the judgement carried out on the words of a "collaboratore di giustizia" (quotation needed)

Two weeks later, three carabinieri were killed in Peteano in a bombing, at the time blamed on "Lotta Continua" by officers of the "carabinieri" (some of them were latter indicted, and even convicted, for having sent false trails to hamper the investigations) Carlo Ginzburg, "The Judge and the Historian. Marginal Notes and a Late-Twentieth-century Miscarriage of Justice", London 1999, ISBN 1-85984-371-9. Original ed. 1991. ] Years later, neofascist terrorist Vincenzo Vinciguerra confessed of having carried out the May 31, 1972 Peteano attack. Magistrate Felice Casson found out in the 1980s that the bombing had been carried out by military C-4 explosive, the most powerful explosive at the time, which came from a Gladio (NATO stay-behind anticommunist network during the Cold War) dump located near Verona.

Casson's investigation revealed that the right-wing organization "Ordine Nuovo" had collaborated very closely with the Italian Military Secret Service, SID (Servizio Informazioni Difesa). Together, they had engineerred the Peteano terror and then wrongly blamed the militant extreme Italian left, the Red Brigades. Judge Casson identified Ordine Nuovo member Vincenzo Vinciguerra as the man who had planted the Peteano bomb... He confessed and testified that he had been covered by an entire network of sympathizers in Italy and abroad who had ensured that after the attack he could escape. "A whole mechanism came into action", Vinciguerra recalled, "that is, the Carabinieri, the Minister of the Interior, the customs services and the military and civilian intelligence services accepted the ideological reasoning behind the attack." [ Daniele Ganser, "NATO's Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe", Franck Cass, London, 2005, pp.3-4 ] cite news | title=Strage di Piazza Fontana spunta un agente USA | publisher=La Repubblica | date=February 11, 1998 | accessdate=2007-02-20 | url=http://www.repubblica.it/online/fatti/fontana/fontana/fontana.html (With original documents, including juridical sentences and the report of the Italian Commission on Terrorism) it icon ]

During a ceremony in honour of Luigi Calabresi, where the Interior Minister Mariano Rumor was present, on 17 May 1973, an alleged anarchist, Gianfranco Bertoli, threw a bomb killing four and injuring 45. End of 1990, it was discovered that Bertoli, who had been convicted for the bombing, was in fact a SID informant and member of Gladio. The secret services claimed it was only a homonimy, while it was found out that, a short time before his death, Luigi Calabresi had opened up a file concerning Bertoli. A magistrate in charge of the investigation concerning the assassination attempt of Mariano Rumor found out that Bertoli's files were incomplete Carlo Ginzburg, "The Judge and the Historian. Marginal Notes and a Late-Twentieth-century Miscarriage of Justice", London 1999, ISBN 1-85984-371-9. Original ed. 1991. ] .

Ten years later, General Gianadelio Maletti, in charge of the SID from 1971 to 1975, was convicted "in absentia" in 1990 for obstruction of justice concerning the Mariano Rumor case. The investigations revealed that he had known of the attack before-hand, but had deliberately failed to prevent it. Testifying in 2001 for the 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing (with a special immunity accorded), General Maletti declared:

The CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] , following the directives of its government, wanted to create an Italian nationalism capable of halting what it saw as a slide to the left and, for this purpose, it may have made use of rightwing terrorism... I believe this is what happened in other countries as well...Don't forget that Nixon was in charge and Nixon was a strange man, a very intelligent politician but a man of rather unorthodox initiativesPhilip Willan, "The Guardian", March 26, 2001. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,462976,00.html Terrorists 'helped by CIA' to stop rise of left in Italy] en icon]

Maletti further declared that:

Among the larger western European countries, Italy has been dealt with as a sort of protectorate. I am ashamed to think that we are still subject to special supervision.

Count Edgardo Sogno revealed in his memoirs that in July 1974, he visited the CIA station chief in Rome to inform him of the preparation of a neo-fascist coup. Asking him what the US government would do in case of such an operation, Sogno wrote that the CIA responsible for Italy answered him that: "the United States would have supported any initiative tending to keep the communists out of government." General Maletti declared, in 2001, that he had not known about Sogno's relations to the CIA and had not been informed of the coup, known as "Golpe bianco" (White Coup), and prepared with Randolfo Pacciardi .

General Vito Miceli, chief of the SIOS military intelligence agency from 1969 on, and head of the SID from 1970 to 1974, was arrested in 1974 on charges of "conspiration against the state." Following his arrest, the Italian secret services were reorganized with a 24 October 1977 law in a democratic attempt of regaining civilian and parliamentary control of them. The SID was divided into the current SISMI, the SISDE and the CESIS, which had a coordination role and was directly led by the President of the Council. Furthermore, an Parliamentary Committee on Secret services control (Copaco) was created at the same occasion.

Aldo Moro's 1978 murder

Christian democrat Aldo Moro was assassinated in May 1978 by the Red Brigades, a terrorist leftist group then led by Mario Moretti. Before his murder, Aldo Moro, a central figure in the Christian democrat Party, several times Prime minister, was trying to include the Communist Party, headed by Enrico Berlinguer, in the parliamentary majority, an operation called the "historic compromise". At this point, the PCI was the largest communist party in western Europe; this was largely due to its reformist orientation, to its growing independence from Moscow and to the new eurocommunism doctrine. The communist party was especially strong in Central Italy, in the three "red regions" (Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Umbria) which it had administered rather efficiently, as well as other local administrations, since the post-war years.

In the period of terror attacks of the late 70s and early 80s, the parliamentary majority was composed by the parties of the "Arco costituzionale", i.e. all parties supporting the Constitution, including the Communists (who in fact took a very strong stance against the Red Brigades and other terrorist groups). However, the Communists never took part in the Government itself, which was composed by the "Pentapartito" (Christian Democrats, Socialists, Social Democrats, Liberals, Republicans).

The strategy of tension

Investigative journalist Carmine Pecorelli was assassinated on March 20, 1979. He had drawn connections in a May 1978 article between Aldo Moro's kidnap and Gladio [http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,4665179-105806,00.html Moro's ghost haunts political life] , "The Guardian", May 9, 2003 ] .

Moro's assassination was followed by a large clampdown on the social movement, including the arrest of many members of "Autonomia Operaia", including political philosopher Toni Negri, Oreste Scalzone, etc.main|Strategy of tension|Operation Gladio

One of the last and largest of the bombings, known as the Bologna massacre, destroyed the city's railway station in 1980. This was found to be a fascist bombing, mainly organized by the NAR, who had ties with the Roman criminal organization "Banda della Magliana". Four years later, on December 23, 1984, another bombing in a train between Florence and Rome killed 16 and wounded more than 200. The mafiosi Giuseppe Calo and four others defendants were convicted to life imprisonment in 1989 for the latter. According to the prosecutors, the far-right had conspired with the mafia and the Camorra to carry out this attack [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DEEDA133CF935A15751C0A96F948260 Italy Convicts 7 in Bombing of Train Fatal to 16 in 1984] , Associated Press, on "The New York Times", February 26, 1989 ] .

Many aspects of the "lead years" are still shrouded in mystery, and debate is still going in regard to some aspects. There were many who spoke, especially among the left, of the existence in those years of a "strategia della tensione". According to the theory, occult and foreign forces were involved in this "strategy of tension", among whom Gladio, a NATO secret anti-communist structure, the P2 masonic lodge, discovered in 1981 following the arrest of its leader Licio Gelli, and fascist "black terrorism" organizations such as "Ordine Nuovo" or "Avanguardia Nazionale", Italian secret services as well as the United States. The existence of the masonesque lodge Propaganda Due (aka P2) was discovered in 1981, in the midst of the Banco Ambrosiano scandal and following the 1982 assassination of Roberto Calvi, nicknamed "God's Banker" as the Vatican Bank, presided by Paul Marcinkus, was the main share-holder of Banco Ambrosiano. In 1981, the police found in Licio Gelli's villa on the Côte d'Azur in France the list of more than 900 members of P2, including 30 generals, 38 members of parliament, 4 cabinet ministers, former prime ministers, intelligence chiefs, newspaper editors, TV executives, businessmen, bankers, 19 judges, and 58 university professors. Among them: Silvio Berlusconi, General Vito Miceli (arrested in 1974 for "conspiration against the state"), Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi, Maurizio Costanzo, Fabrizio Cicchitto, investigative journalist Carmine Pecorelli, etc.

This theory reemerged in the 1990s, following Prime minister Giulio Andreotti's recognition of the existence of Gladio before the Parliamentary assembly on 24 October 1990. Furthermore, juridical investigations concerning the Piazza Fontana bombing and the Bologna massarce, in particular by Milan prosecutor Guido Salvini — who indicted a US Navy officer, David Carrett, for his role in the Piazza Fontana bombing, and surprised in 1995 Carlo Rocchi, CIA's man in Italy, searching for information concerning the case in the mid-1990s — and several parliamentary reports pointed towards such a deliberate strategy of tension.

In 2000, a Parliament Commission report from the Olive Tree left-of-center coalition concluded that the strategy of tension had been supported by the United States to "stop the PCI, and to a certain degree also the PSI, from reaching executive power in the country"." [ it icon Cite web | title=Commissione parlamentare d'inchiesta sul terrorismo in Italia e sulle cause della mancata individuazione dei responsabili delle stragi (1995 Parliamentary Commission of Investigation on Terrorism in Italy and on the Causes of the Failing of the Arrests of the Responsibles of the Bombings) | date=1995 | accessdate=2006-05-02 | url=http://www.isn.ethz.ch/php/documents/collection_gladio/report_ital_senate.pdf ] en icon/it icon/fr icon/de icon Cite web | title=Secret Warfare: Operation Gladio and NATO's Stay-Behind Armies | accessdate=2006-05-02 | publisher=Swiss Federal Institute of Technology / International Relation and Security Network | url=http://www.isn.ethz.ch/php/collections/coll_gladio.htm#Documents ]

The Eighties

In the 1980s, for the first time since 1945, two governments were led by non-Christian Democrat Premiers: a republican (Giovanni Spadolini) and a socialist (Bettino Craxi); the DC remained however the main force supporting the government.

With the end of the “lead years”, the PCI gradually increased their votes under the leadership of Enrico Berlinguer. The Socialist party (PSI), led by Bettino Craxi, became more and more critical of the communists and of the Soviet Union; Craxi himself pushed in favour of US president Ronald Reagan's positioning of Pershing missiles in Italy, a move the communists hotly contested.

As the socialist party moved to more moderate positions, the ranks of the PCI increased in numbers, and the Communist party surpassed the Christian Democracy (DC) in the European elections of 1984, barely two days after Berlinguer's death, that likely drew sympathy in the population. Huge crowds attended Berlinguer's funeral. That was to be the only time the Christian Democracy was not the largest party in a nation-wide election they participated in. In 1984, the Craxi government revised the 1927 Lateran Pacts with the Vatican, which included the end of Roman Catholicism as Italy’s formal state religion.

With the "Mani Pulite" investigation, starting just one year after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the discovery of the extent of corruption, which involved most of Italy's important political parties, apart from the PCI, led the whole power structure to falter. The scandal became known as "Tangentopoli", and seemingly indestructible parties like the DC and the PSI disbanded. The communist party, although it hadn't been much worried by legal investigations, changed their name to Democratic Party of the Left. Observing the fall of the Soviet Union, it took the role of the socialist party as the main social democratic party in Italy. What was to follow was then called the transition to the "Second Republic".

The "Second Republic" (1992-present)

"Mani pulite" and the "Second Republic"

From 1992 to 1997, Italy faced significant challenges as voters (disenchanted with past political paralysis, massive government debt, extensive corruption, and organized crime's considerable influence collectively called Tangentopoli after being uncovered by Mani pulite - "Clean hands") demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms. The scandals involved all major parties, but especially those in the government coalition: between 1992 and 1994 the DC underwent a severe crisis and was dissolved, splitting up into several pieces, among whom the Italian People’s Party and the Christian Democratic Center. The PSI (and the other governing minor parties) completely dissolved.

This "revolution" of the Italian political landscape, happened at a time when some institutional reforms (e.g. changes in the electoral laws intended to diminish the power of political parties) were taking place. For this reason, Italian political commentators refer to the post-1992 period as the "Second Republic", despite the absence of any major constitutional change.

In the Italian referendums of 1993, voters approved substantial changes, including moving from a proportional to an Additional Member System (with the requirement to obtain a minimum of 4% of the national vote to obtain representation) which is largely dominated by a majoritarian electoral system and the abolishment of some ministries (some of which have however been reintroduced with only partly modified names, as the "Ministry of Agriculture" being renamed "Ministry of Agricultural Resources").

Major political parties, beset by scandal and loss of voter confidence, underwent far-reaching changes. The main changes in the political landscape were:

* The left-wing vote appeared to be close to winning a majority. As of late 1993, it appeared that a coalition of left-wing parties may have won 40% of the vote, which would have sufficed to obtain a majority with the new electoral system given the disarray of other factions;
* The neo-fascist Italian Social Movement changed name and symbol into National Alliance, a party that its president Gianfranco Fini called "post-fascist". Some new members entered into the newly formed party, such as Publio Fiori from the Christian Democracy, but not to a large extent. The new party, however, managed to gather large portions of the catholic vote in the south and centre.
* The movement Northern League vastly increased its support, with some polls indicating up to 16% on national basis (presenting itself only in one third of the country). Secretary Umberto Bossi was gathering protest votes and the support of northern conservatives, but had no clear government agenda.
* In the meantime, Silvio Berlusconi, previously very close to Bettino Craxi and even having appeared in commercials for the Italian Socialist Party, was studying the possibility of making a political party of his own to avoid what seemed to be the unavoidable victory of the left wing at the next elections. Only three months before the election, he presented, with a televised announcement, his new party, Forza Italia. However his motives (supporters believe he wanted to avert a communist victory, opponents that he was defending the ancién regime by rebranding it), he employed his power in communication (he owned, and still owns, all of the three main private TV stations in Italy) and advanced communication techniques he and his allies knew very well, as his fortune was largely based on advertisement.

Berlusconi managed, in a surprise move, to ally itself "both" to National Alliance and the Northern League, without these being allied with each other. Forza Italia teamed up with the League in the North, where they competed against National Alliance, and with National Alliance in the rest of Italy, where the League was not present. This unusual coalition configuration was caused by the deep hate between the League, which wanted to separate Italy and held Rome in deep contempt, and the nationalist post-fascists: in one occasion, Bossi encouraged his supporters to go find National-Alliance supporters "house by house", suggesting a lynching (which however did not actually take place).

The left-wing parties formed a coalition, the "Progressisti", which however did not have a clear leader as Berlusconi was for his. Achille Occhetto, secretary of the Democratic Party of the Left, was however considered to be its main figure.

The remains of the Christian Democracy formed a third, centrist coalition, proposing reformist Mario Segni as prime minister candidate. The Christian Democracy, that had gone back to the name "Popular party", used at the beginning of the twentieth century, was led by Mino Martinazzoli.

The election saw a major turnover in the new parliament, with 452 out of 630 deputies and 213 out of 315 senators elected for the first time.

1994 elections: Berlusconi’s first government

The 1994 elections also swept media magnate Silvio Berlusconi (leader of "Pole of Freedoms" coalition, which included Forza Italia, the regionalist far-right ‘‘Lega Nord’’ party and the far-right "Alleanza Nazionale"), into office as Prime Minister. Berlusconi, however, was forced to step down in December 1994 when the "Lega Nord" withdrew support. The Berlusconi government was succeeded by a technical government headed by Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, which left office in early 1996.

1996 elections

A series of center-left coalitions dominated Italy's political landscape between 1996 and 2001. In April 1996, national elections led to the victory of a center-left coalition under the leadership of Romano Prodi. The Olive Tree included PDS, Italian Popular Party (PPI, the largest surviving piece of the former DC), and other small parties, with "external endorsement" from the communists) Prodi's government became the third-longest to stay in power before he narrowly lost a vote of confidence, by three votes, in October 1998.

In May 1999, the Parliament selected Carlo Azeglio Ciampi as the President of the Republic. Ciampi, a former Prime Minister and Minister of the Treasury, and before the governor of the Bank of Italy, was elected on the first ballot with an easy margin over the required two-thirds votes.

A new government was formed by Democrats of the Left leader and former communist Massimo D'Alema, but in April 2000, following poor performance by his coalition in regional elections, D'Alema resigned.

The succeeding center-left government, including most of the same parties, was headed by Giuliano Amato (social-democratic), who previously served as Prime Minister in 1992-93, and had back then sworn never to return to active politics.

May 2001 national elections

The May 2001 elections, where both coalitions used "decoy lists" to undermine the proportional-compensation part of the electoral system, ushered a refashioned center-right coalition, "Freedom House" dominated by Berlusconi's party, Forza Italia into power. It included the Alleanza Nazionale, the Lega Nord, the Christian Democratic Center and the United Christian Democrats. The Olive Tree coalition now sits in the opposition.

This emerging bipolarity represents a major break from the fragmented, multi-party political landscape of the postwar era, although it appears to have reached a plateau, since efforts via referendums to further curtail the influence of small parties were defeated in 1999 and 2000. The constant debate among the components of both coalitions is however intense, and some observers noted in this infighting some similarities with the previous system.

The largest parties in the Chamber were (proportional system):
* Forza Italia (29.2%), a conservative, populistic and liberal party;
* Democrats of the Left (16.7%), a social-democratic party;
* the Daisy (14,5%), a Catholic and left-wing liberals coalition;
* the National Alliance (12,5%), a conservative, post-fascist party;
* the Whiteflower (3,3%), a centrist-Catholics parties coalition. Similar rankings generally apply in the Senate, in which Forza Italia and the Democrats of the Left remain the dominant parties.

Berlusconi participated in the US-led military coalition in Iraq, but his successor, Romano Prodi, took out the Italian troops. Italy's participation was marked by an incident with the US, concerning the death, by "friendly fire", of a SISMI agent, Nicola Calipari, during the March 2005 rescue of Giuliana Sgrena, a reporter from "Il Manifesto". Furthermore, Berlusconi set up the Mitrokhin Commission, directed by senator Paolo Guzzanti (Forza Italia), supposed to investigate on alleged ties to the KGB of figures from the opposition. The Commission, closed in March 2006 without conclusive evidence, was very controversed, in particular after claiming that Romano Prodi, former and current Prime minister of Italy, and former President of the European Commission, had been "KGB's man in Italy." One of the informer of Senator Guzzanti, Mario Scaramella, was arrested end of December 2006 for defamation and arms-trade. The new government has set up a new commission to investigate on the Mitrokhin Commission.

April 2006 elections

Romano Prodi won the April 2006 general election, although Silvio Berlusconi first refused to acknowledge his defeat. On 21 February 2007, Prodi tendered his resignation to Head of State Giorgio Napolitano after the government was defeated in the Senate by 2 ballots in a vote on foreign policy. On 24 February, President Napolitano invited him to return to office and to try to win a confidence vote.

Following the kidnapping in 2003 of imam Abu Omar, 22 CIA agents, including the former CIA responsible for Italy, Jeffrey W. Castelli, have been indicted in the "Imam Rapito affair", qualified by the Milan prosecutors as a "concerted CIA-SISMI operation". Nicolò Pollari, the head of SISMI, was forced to resign in November 2006, before being indicted, while his deputy, Marco Mancini, has been indicted both in the "Imam Rapito" affair and in the SISMI-Telecom scandal, which concerns an illegal program of domestic surveillance. Pollari had previously been identified, in a 2005 article in "La Repubblica" by investigative reporters Giuseppe D'Avanzo and Carlo Bonini, as having brought the discredited documents at the center of the Yellowcake forgery scandal directly to Vice-President Dick Cheney's Office of Special Plans, bypassing the CIA, who knew the documents were forgeries. The forgeries were a main pretext of the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States.

Large demonstrations, followed by Communist Refoundation Party (PRC), the Party of Italian Communists (PDCI), the Greens, and a part of the Democrats of the Left (DS) and of the Margherita, were carried out in 2007 against a US project of extension of the Caserma Ederle base near Vicenza [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6370671.stm Italians march in US base protest] , BBC, February 17, 2007 en icon] . Along with Prodi's program of liberalisations, these provoked tensions inside the majority, although the communist parties' leadership assured him of their support. Along with the need for refinancing Italian troops deployment in Afghanistan, the Vicenza base extension project provoked Romano Prodi's loss of a vote in Senate in February 2007, prompting him to resign. But despite calls from the UDC Christian-Democrat party to integrate Prodi's coalition and to exclude the communists from it, Prodi finally decided to maintain a left-to-center alliance, which concluded on a 12 points programme, including support for Italy's presence in Afghanistan [ "BBC", 23 February 2007 [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6388455.stm Italian coalition 'to back Prodi'] en icon ] .

ee also

* Giulio Andreotti
* Autonomism
* Golpe Borghese
* History of Italy as a monarchy and in the World Wars
* Politics of Italy
* Fascism
* Tangentopoli and mani pulite
* strategy of tension and Operation Gladio
* List of Presidents of the Italian Republic
* List of Prime Ministers of Italy
* Silvio Berlusconi
* F. Mark Wyatt CIA operative

References

External links

* Text of the present Italian Constitution: [http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/it00000_.html English translation] and [http://www.quirinale.it/costituzione/costituzione.htm original Italian] (including 18 "temporary and final dispositions")


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