World

Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day

Angela Ferrante June 18 1979
World

Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day

Angela Ferrante June 18 1979

Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day

Italy

La Stampa, Turin's feisty daily newspaper, instantly dubbed them "elections without victors." And

last week, after Italy’s 42 million voters had re-elected a political stalemate to rule the country, no one, least of all the ruling Christian Democrats, was quibbling with the assessment. The party has headed every government since the war and had been hoping to be jolted out of its precarious, minority hold on power into a stronger position by voters’ fear of terrorism. Instead, it barely managed to hold its own.

The Communists, the second largest party, were no more fortunate. Hoping for an endorsement of their demand for cabinet seats, they were instead chopped back about three percentage points in the popular vote, their first major reversal in three decades. And the Socialists, who hoped to gain enough credibility to be a true balance of power, were disappointed with only a fractional increase. The only political groupings to make any gains were small, centre-left, gadfly parties like the Radicals, which siphoned off protest votes from the big power blocs.

After a lethargic campaign and an apathetic turnout (three million Italians spoiled their ballots or left them blank) the country can now look forward to a hot summer of tortuous interparty negotiations at Montecitorio, the official seat in Rome, about who is to form a government.

That question will be only partly answered when the two houses of parliament—the senate and the chamber of deputies—convene June 20 to choose their presidents and the chairmen of parliamentary committees. The premier for the past three years, Giulio Andreotti, will probably be asked once more to try to cobble together an “interim” administration and hold off serious bargaining until the fall. All indications are, nevertheless, that the haggling will be intense.

The Communists, who, in the words of leader Enrico Berlinguer, suffered “a considerable loss,” are nonetheless going to fight for their cabinet positions. After a meeting of the party last week, a top leader, Luciano Barca, bluntly warned: “We will not support a government from which we are excluded.”

That was bad, though not unexpected, news for Andreotti. And while he could conceivably form a government with the help of the Socialists, their pricenumerous cabinet seats or possibly the position of premier—may also be too high. Meantime, as the newly elected old faces once more resume their game of political chess, the country’s worsening unemployment and delicate labor situation are unlikely to get badly needed attention. As La Stampa put it, the election has resulted in “more insecurity than hope.” Angela Ferrante