The Union (political coalition)


The Union (political coalition)

Infobox_Italy_Political_Coalition
coalition_name = The Union
coalition_name_italian = L'Unione
coalition_
coalition_status = Former Italian National Coalition
10 February 20058 February 2008
leader = Romano Prodi
ideology = Center-left coalition
website = [http://www.unioneweb.it/ http://www.unioneweb.it/]

The Union (Italian: "L'Unione") was an Italian centre-left political party coalition led by Romano Prodi, the former (due to 2008 elections) prime minister of Italy and former president of the European Commission.

Parties

The Union was the direct heir of The Olive Tree coalition which represented the centre-left parties in the 1996 and 2001 general elections. However, it also included sectors of the radical left, which were not part of The Olive Tree.

The parties which were part of the coalition for most of the time are:

*Democratic Party ("Partito Democratico")
**formed by social democratic Democrats of the Left and the centrist Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy
*Communist Refoundation Party ("Partito della Rifondazione Comunista")
*Federation of the Greens ("Federazione dei Verdi")
*Party of Italian Communists ("Partito dei Comunisti Italiani")
*Italian Democratic Socialists ("Socialisti Democratici Italiani")
*Italian Radicals ("Radicali Italiani")
*Italy of Values ("Italia dei Valori")
*UDEUR Populars ("Popolari-UDEUR")
*The Italian Socialists ("I Socialisti")
*Pensioners' Party ("Partito dei Pensionati" — former member, from February to November 2006, then part of the House of Freedoms right-wing coalition)

Primary elections

As of 2005, the coalition was actually assumed to be led by Prodi, however he called for a primary election in order to gain an official leadership. Primary elections were a novelty in Italian politics, as the proportional system in place until the early 1990s was supposed to present sufficient variety to electors. With the new majoritarian electoral system, two clear blocks have emerged since 1996. The primary elections for the Union took place on October 16, 2005.

Previous primary election in Apulia

Primary elections have never been held on a national level before in Italy, and only once at a regional level, in Apulia: in that occasion, Nichi Vendola, a communist, a Catholic and gay, became the candidate for the centre-left coalition in a region reputed to be conservative and with deep religious roots. The institute of primary election came under criticism from some centre-left moderates, as in their opinion it had produced a useless candidate doomed to failure. However, Vendola's victory against the incumbent governor and centre-right candidate Raffaele Fitto, a much more conventional and moderate young man, vindicated the primary elections in the internal argumentations of the Union.

Candidates

When the primary elections were first proposed, they were mostly meant as a plebiscite for Romano Prodi, since there were no other candidates to the leadership of the coalition. The secretary of the Communist Refoundation Party, Fausto Bertinotti, then decided to announce he would run for the leadership, even if only as a symbolic candidate, to avoid a one-candidate election. After some time, more candidates were presented.

The seven candidates for the leadership of the Union are, in the order in which they appear on the electoral ballot: [http://www.adnkronos.com/3Level.php?cat=Politica&loid=1.0.149436598]
*Fausto Bertinotti, secretary of the Communist Refoundation Party.
*Antonio Di Pietro, former anti-corruption prosecutor in the Mani Pulite investigation, leader of Italy of Values.
*Ivan Scalfarotto, a manager living in London and a blogger, runs as an independent candidate. He is openly bisexual.
*"The faceless candidate", formally represented in person by Simona Panzino. This is a symbolic candidate from the anti-globalization movement. Some priests close to these movements were initially suggested for the actual name to place on the ballots, but they were retreated in face of likely backfire from the Holy See.
*Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio, secretary of the Federation of the Greens. Other than environmentalism, he has a civil-rights-oriented and pacifist agenda. He is openly bisexual. [http://www.repubblica.it/2005/f/sezioni/politica/strisciolega/strisciolega/strisciolega.html]
*Romano Prodi, leader of the Olive tree coalition, supported by the largest parties of the Union, former prime minister of Italy and president of the European Commission.
*Clemente Mastella, leader of the Popular-UDEUR party. A former ally of Silvio Berlusconi, he is considered the most Catholic and centrist candidate.

It had been foreseen an easy win for Romano Prodi, with the other candidates running mostly to "measure their strengths" in the coalition, and they often talked about reaching a certain percentage rather than winning. However, there were rumours of supporters of the House of Freedoms trying to participate in the elections, and vote in favour of Mastella, reputed to be the least competent of the candidates and the least likely to win against Berlusconi, other than the most centrist; other rumours indicated such "fake" left-wing voters would vote for Bertinotti, because his leadership would likely lose any grip on the political centre.

The election

The election has been held nationwide on October 16, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.. The primary election has been opened to all Italian citizens which will be at least 18 for the next general election, plus regular immigrants who lives in Italy for 3 years (it must be noted that immigrants still do not have the opportunity to vote for any other election in Italy), against a payment of (at least) 1 euro, in order to cover all the organizational expenses. Poll stations have been mainly managed on a voluntary basis; they have been hosted mainly in squares, local party quarters, schools, and even restaurants, bars, campers and a hairdresser; some poll stations have been also provided outside the country for Italians abroad. Most of the party leaders claimed a result of 1 million voters would be a good success for the election. The total count was in excess of 4,300,000.

Allegations of fraud by Mastella

Clemente Mastella claimed, already on the election day, that too few ballots had been provided in areas where his party is stronger, and that several pre-marked voting papers, pre-marked with votes for Prodi, have been prepared in order to let him lose. No one other than Mastella backed up these claims inside the coalition, and material evidence has not been presented.

Murder of Francesco Fortugno

Francesco Fortugno, vice-president of the Council of Calabria and Daisy member, was murdered on 16 October 2005 by two killers when he was waiting in line to vote in a polling station located in Locri. The act was assumed to have political significance since the murderers killed him on a political occasion and with dozens of witnesses. The administration Fortugno was a part of had previously removed many administrators, and some saw this murder as an act of retribution from the 'Ndrangheta against Agazio Loiero's administration.

Results

5"9,816 poll stations"

Reactions

Most reactions in the left-wing were comprehensibly enthusiastic, especially because of the high number of participants. Clemente Mastella, however, accused the organization of rigging the election and having pre-printed ballots in favour of Prodi.

In the right wing, two main attitudes were held: some respected or even hailed the election, others contested its validity and characterised them as propaganda. [http://www.repubblica.it/2005/j/sezioni/politica/primarieunio3/reacdl/reacdl.html]

* Silvio Berlusconi said the primary elections "are the only way they can win";
* Gianfranco Fini expressed respect for voters, but suggested, on the basis of Mastella's claims, that the results may have been rigged;
* Roberto Maroni from the Northern League said that the elections "deserve respect in any case, but will not solve the centre-left's internal contradictions";
* Roberto Castelli, minister of justice, stygmatised the elections as a "perfect example of Soviet-style political campaign: there is no certification of the data purported by the centre-left, and knowing their methods they are certainly inflated".
* The Union of Christian Democrats expressed the most positive judgements from the centre-right, and Bruno Tabacci called for primary elections in the centre-right too, following tensions between his party and Berlusconi, no longer felt to be a strong candidate.

Senate results for the Union:

External links and references

# [http://www.voanews.com/english/2005-10-16-voa12.cfm Italian Opposition Holds Primary to Choose Berlusconi Challenger] , Voice Of America (retrieved October 16, 2005)
# [http://english.epochtimes.com/news/5-10-16/33374.html Italians Vote to Choose Berlusconi Challenger] , The Epoch Times (retrieved October 16, 2005)
# [http://ansa.it/main/notizie/awnplus/english/news/2005-10-16_1569001.html Centre-left 'primary' huge success] , ANSA (retrieved October 16, 2005)
#it icon [http://www.repubblica.it/2005/j/sezioni/politica/primarieunio2/mastebrogli/mastebrogli.html Mastella: 'Fake primaries, ballot papers already prepared for Prodi'] , Repubblica.it (retrieved October 16, 2005)
# [http://headlines.virgin.net/story/OOO/A1672371129481562A00 Italian politician killed at poll station] , Virgin.net (retrieved October 16, 2005)
# [http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/europe/10/17/italy.vote.ap/ Prodi wins Italian primary] , CNN.com (retrieved October 17, 2005)
# [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4348120.stm Romano Prodi wins Italian primary] , BBC News (retrieved October 17, 2005)
# [http://www.unioneweb.it/ L'Unione] official website

See also

* Elections in Italy
* House of Freedoms
* Italian general elections, 2006
* Olive Tree
* History of Italy as a Republic
* Politics of Italy
* Primary elections in Italy
* Romano Prodi


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