Italy in the 1990’s Part 1

By | February 19, 2022

According to countryvv, the investigations by the Milanese judiciary on corruption in public life, which began in 1992, have had disruptive effects on the Italian political system, triggering and accelerating a series of transformations that have not, however, resulted in institutional reforms. The passage from the first to the second Republic, announced repeatedly and in many respects already visible, was still unfinished after six years. The republic of parties that the Prime Minister, G. Amato, had given up for dead after the referendum of April 1993, has instead shown an unexpected new vitality starting from 1997, slowing down that completed transition to bipolarism that was implicit in the choice of the majority system as a criterion for electoral competitions.

In the years immediately following the 1992 crisis – 93 some political results appeared definitively acquired. The inquiries of ‘Clean Hands’ had in fact produced a large delegitimization of the ruling political class (DC, PSI, PSDI, PRI, PLI) and above all of its leaders, while, under the pressure of public opinion inflamed by the hypotheses of change, the country seemed on the way to radically overthrow the system of political relations, abandoning its consociative immobility to take the path of conflict and democratic alternation. The revelation of the system of corruption had made the principles and projects of political forces scarcely credible, and had therefore also contributed to crumbling the traditions on which parties had continued to be founded in the republican age. The collapse of The Soviet Union and the end of the bipolarity of the superpowers had made out of date political choices guided by oppositions and affiliations justified by the international political framework. The result was a phase of weakening of the parties, their organizations and traditional forms of militancy, while a marked personalization of politics was favored by the new electoral mechanisms.

This process was started in 1993 on the occasion of the first round of administrative consultations with the direct election of the mayor and possible ballot between the two most voted candidates. On that occasion there had been real televised duels between opposing candidates, as in the case of the confrontation for the Municipality of Rome between G. Fini, leader of the MSI, and F. Rutelli at the helm of a center-left alignment, resolved to advantage of the latter. The personalization of politics and a stronger role of television in orienting the electorate had been further strengthened by the entry into politics of the television entrepreneur S. Berlusconi on the occasion of the political elections scheduled for March 1994.

After the launch of the new electoral law in August 1993, new early elections now seemed inevitable. A Parliament elected with the new rules and made up of men not compromised with the system of bribes was in the expectations of public opinion. For the old government majority it was a question of saving as much as possible of the tradition of parties that were widely involved and now decimated in their leadership. Having moved away from B. Craxi (not only from the party, but from Italy), the PSI had entrusted the party secretariat to two former trade unionists, first to G. Benvenuto, then to O. Del Turco, without being able to quickly to restore credibility to its image. The DC, led by M. Martinazzoli – a politician known for his moral integrity – had decided to return to the origins and the old denomination of the first Catholic party (the one founded by L. Sturzo in 1919) summarizing the name of the Italian People’s Party. But when the Constituent Assembly launched the revival of the PPI (January 1994), a group of Christian Democrat leaders (including PF Casini, F. D’Onofrio and C. Mastella), hostile to the dominant role of the left in the new party, gave birth to a new formation, the Christian Democratic Center (CCD). On the right, too, there was an acceleration in change. The secretary of the MSI G. Fini, exploiting the successes obtained in the municipal elections of 1993, aimed at obtaining a definitive legitimacy for his party, giving life to the National Alliance, in which, in addition to the MSI, some Christian Democrat exponents converged. Urged to redefine relations with the fascist past, after reiterating the choice made in favor of democracy, Fini declared that fascism had ended definitively in 1945, thus getting rid of the neo-fascist past. However, he remembered the positivity of an era, the fascist one, and of Mussolini as a statesman up to the errors of racial politics and war.

Between the end of 1993 and the beginning of 1994 the most novel element in the Italian political scene was the entry into politics of S. Berlusconi. Owner, with Fininvest, of the three major private television networks (Canale 5, Italia 1, Retequattro) and of Milan, the strongest football club of those years, an industrialist engaged in many other sectors, from construction to large-scale distribution, insurance, finance, advertising, Berlusconi had repeatedly expressed his intention to give life to his own political movement for which he sought membership and alliances. In January 1994had announced its ‘descent into the field’ and the birth of the Forza Italia movement with the aim of stemming the announced success of the left (and in the first place of the PDS), of re-aggregating a dispersed center in a very serious crisis, of finally putting itself as a constitutive element of a new center-right alignment with a liberal vocation and a liberal-democratic orientation. Berlusconi intended to assert the great notoriety linked to the successes of a self-made entrepreneur and relied on the explicit and implicit support of his television networks and on large financial resources. Berlusconi’s project, which enjoyed the support of intellectuals and men of culture, managed to translate in less than two months into an electoral cartel with the Northern League in Italy North (pole of liberties) and with the National Alliance in the Center-South (pole of good governance). The radicals of M. Pannella, the CCD and other politicians gathered in the central Union also joined the coalition. To Berlusconi’s persuasiveness was added the calculated choice of an entire center-right camp that did not have the strength and resources to oppose the engaging initiative of the Milanese entrepreneur. On the opposite front, the PDS aggregated, in the Progressives cartel, all the forces of the left, from the Communist Refoundation to the Socialists, from the Greens to the Internet, to the Democratic Alliance, a new group of the liberal-democratic left. Isolated in a context that imposed planned alliances (with exchange of votes and negotiated desistances) appeared the PPI and the group gathered around M. Segni.

Italy in the 1990's 1