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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La gauche italienne face à la chute de la maison Berlusconi

by Gaël de Santis

The Italian Left Confronted with the Fall of the House of Berlusconi

Translated Tuesday 16 November 2010, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

The Italian right wing is divided as never before, now that Gianfranco Fini has demanded the resignation of the president of the council, Silvio Berlusconi. But the opposition, divided because of electoral setbacks, is not necessarily prepared to pick up the gauntlet.

If the Italian President of the Council Silvio Berlusconi is in dire straits, so is the opposition on the Left. The President of the House of Representatives, Gianfranco Fini, has called for the resignation of Silvio Berlusconi and last Tuesday, the government only mustered a minority of the Assembly’s votes over an amendment on the expulsion of immigrants. But opposite Berlusconi is a Democratic Party (PD) that has been divided by its electoral defeats. As to the Communists, they won no seat in the House at all in the April 2008 electoral debacle.

That really is a pity. For what has emerged over the last few days in Italy is a lasting break within the Rightist coalition between the two politicians that set it up, namely Silvio Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini, the president of the House of Representatives. Last Sunday the latter called for the resignation of il Cavaliere, as a way of bringing the Democratic Union’s Christian-Democrats into the governmental coalition. If the President of the Council opposes the move, his former accomplice threatens to withdraw from the government the four ministers of the party he founded last Saturday (Future and Liberty, FLI). More should be known about the outcome of the governmental crisis after Silvio Berlusconi returns from the Seoul G20 summit.

But in what state is the Left? It has gone through difficult times since the fall of the Prodi government in 2008. Shortly after the Democratic Party – which proclaimed itself centrist –was set up, it launched into the campaign for the April election on its own. The parties on its left (the two Communist parties and the Greens) consequently ran under the banner of the Rainbow-Left. Which ended in a fiasco, as the alliance got only 3,1% of the vote and for the first time since 1945 the Left got absolutely no seats in the House.

Since then the Right has won the elections that took place in the interval. In the European and local elections the PD did not rise above the 30% mark.

As to the Communists, they are broke, and boycotted by the very media that are mobilized against Berlusconi’s attacks on the freedom of the press. To which they added a scission: in late 2008 the Party of the Communist Refoundation (PRC)’s executive committee decided to leave the boat in order to give up the reference to communism and set up the Ecology and Freedom Left (SEL) with former Socialists.

The PD went through a war of succession. Aware of the necessity of finding allies, the new secretary, Pier Luigi Bersani, decided to re-integrate SEL into the future governmental coalition. A favourite with the media, that party’s leader Nichi Vendola, governor of the Pugglie might even make a good score against Bersani in the primaries.

The PRC and the Party of the Italian Communists (PdCI) that now form the union of Communists within the Federation of the Left have taken up with the PD again. Bersani accepted the suggestion of PRC’s secretary Paolo Ferrero to re-integrate them into the Centre Left coalition in the name of “the democratic urgency”. The Communists would have no seats on the executive.

The electoral alliance is set. But “we need to mobilize all of the Centre Left electorate,” Sancho Gozi, a democratic deputy warns. “In Italy, Right-wing voters seldom swing to the Left. What matters is to mobilise our own potential electors. And in that respect, what with the scandals and the divisions, the Centre Right is in deep trouble.”

The PD is set on focusing its campaign on the themes of employment, especially young people’s employment, and observance of the law. All the opposition parties raise the question of the cultural struggle to be fought before Italy can extirpate itself from the Berlusconi perverted political mores . “The President of the Council has governed by taking advantage of Italian people’s defects, and legitimized all kinds of behaviour,” the deputy protests: he is worried about the cultural breaking-down of the country.

Galvanized by the massive demonstrations organized by the Cgil confederation, Refoundation insists on the need to target the right enemy. Berlusconi must be beaten, Alfio Nicotra, one of its leaders, warns. But what is needed is an opposition to the “new Right”, that of the Fiat president Sergio Marchionne, who is set on breaking down the branch conventions between employers and workers. For the time being, there are two hypotheses concerning the possible ways out of the governmental crisis: one is an early election in June, the other a national union government to change the electoral law, and also to take measures against the crisis. The Federation of the Left rejects such a hypothesis. In other words, it is necessary to fight against Berlusconi. But also against his policies.

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