According to globalsciencellc, the agreement between Berlusconi and the secretary of the PDS, D’Alema, had led to the establishment of a bicameral Commission (February 1997) to outline an organic project of institutional reforms (see also state: Institutional reforms, in this Appendix). The Commission, chaired by D’Alema, reached, in 1997, through a series of complex negotiations and delicate compromises with all the political forces, to define a series of constitutional changes. The Bicameral proposal, destined to be discussed by the Chambers in 1998, provided for the establishment of a semi-presidential system, characterized by the direct popular election of the President of the Republic and by a head of government designated at the same time by the majority; the introduction of a series of elements of federalism, and finally greater guarantees for the accused in judicial proceedings. Subsequently, new tensions between the two sides on the question of presidentialism would however have forced the renunciation of any consensual project. In reality, the agreements reached in the Bicameral had not succeeded in resolving either the judicial question, a decisive element for Berlusconi, or that, which remained in the background but in reality decisive, of the reform of the electoral law. On this The last theme was the measurement of the interests of the large political staff who survived the party crisis and were now divided into many groups arranged within a bipolar scheme that was anything but consolidated. Italian bipolarism was not founded on large opposing parties according to the model of the major Western democracies, but was characterized by the confrontation between very composite electoral cartels.
Therefore, the ability to aggregate the individual sides and the credibility of the candidates became decisive. Precisely a certain superiority in these areas, linked to a longer political tradition, had allowed the center-left alignment to regain, in the administrative elections of spring-autumn 1997, the leader of many large centers such as Turin, Rome, Naples, Palermo, while the center-right managed to steal Milan from the League. Precisely the breadth of the alignments proposed again the problems of the relative weight, of the autonomy, of the perspectives of the individual political forces operating within them. In the center-left the dimensions of the PDS hegemony and relations with the Olive tree remained at stake, in the center-right the issues relating to the holding of Berlusconi’s leadership and the role of the National Alliance, while individual politicians were relaunching hypotheses of strengthening of the centrist component represented in the two camps by the parties derived from the crushing of the DC.
In February 1998, with the convocation in Florence of the so-called general states of the left, the process of formation of the Left Democrats (DS) led by D’Alema and including, in addition to the PDS, the Labor Federation, the unitary Communists, the social Christians and representatives of the republican left. In the center-right, a long internal confrontation led to the birth (July) of a new political group (UDR), promoted and led by the former President of the Republic F. Cossiga, within which, among others, exponents of Forza Italia, of the CDU and the CCD. Created with the aim of rebuilding a moderate force capable of placing itself at the center between the two camps and of communicating autonomously with them, the new movement aroused the perplexity of those who saw the consolidation of bipolarism threatened. All ‘ In the meantime, the reasons for the conflict between the Olive Tree and the Communist PRC remained unresolved, which took on an increasingly critical attitude with the passing of the months, destined to lead to an open conflict at the end of September, once again at the time of presentation of the finance law. The interventions for the South and for the occupation envisaged by the maneuver approved by the government were in fact considered inadequate by Rifondazione which contested the very structure of the law, as it lacked the structural reforms, deemed necessary to overcome the depression, and the provisions for address issues of social equity. In reality, Bertinotti’s proposal to vote against the budget and to withdraw confidence in the government was not shared by a ‘ dissident wing that had gathered around A. Cossutta. The latter, after the majority of the PRC exponents had approved the secretary’s line, decided to leave the party giving life to the Party of Italian Communists (PdCI).
Despite the votes guaranteed by Cossutta, the government was unable to gain confidence and Prodi was forced to resign (9October). The negotiations between the parties for a new government simultaneously highlighted the readiness of the UDR to support the center-left, rejecting however the plan of the Olive tree, considered prejudicial for the reconstruction of a Catholic center. Prodi, to whom the President of the Republic had entrusted an exploratory assignment, therefore decided to retire. The task was thus entrusted to D’Alema that he managed to form a DS-PPI-PdCI-Verdi-UDR ministry, which obtained without difficulty the trust in Parliament, and against which the Polo for freedoms, the League and Communist refoundation. The government was joined by members of the UDR and the PdCI, but many ministers (including Ciampi and Dini) retained the previous dicasteries. A woman, R. Jervolino Russo, went to Interni for the first time, while to former Prime Minister Amato was entrusted with the delicate task of institutional reforms. Veltroni, after leaving the government, went to the DS secretariat, abandoned by D’Alema.
The decision of the UDR to support a center-left government triggered the reactions of the Freedom Pole (within which the UDR parliamentarians had been elected) and reopened the debate on institutional reforms, considered indispensable to guarantee bipolarism and stem the applicants transforming temptations. In reality, the confrontation on these issues, after the negative results of the bicameral Commission, had returned to impose itself above all following the referendum initiative promoted by Di Pietro, Segni and Occhetto to obtain the repeal of the proportional share in the elections of the Chamber of Deputies. So again, like in 1991 and 1993, the referendum hypothesis was proposed as the only possible way to introduce corrective measures to the political system: reforms limited to the electoral mechanisms (which can be adjusted per se by ordinary law) which, in the unfinished Italian transition, proved to be the real point of conflict for a political class reluctant to tackle the problem of the reorganization of powers and institutional balances without guarantees.
In reality, the development of political events would not have allowed, during 1999, the reactivation of those mechanisms which, in previous years, had imposed, under the pressure of referendum consultations, an acceleration of the transformations of the political system. On 18 April 1999, in fact, it did not reach the quorum to validate the referendum on proportional basis: only 49, 6 % of those eligible to vote had gone, and so, despite the 91% of the voters were in favor of the abrogation, any hypothesis of retouching of the electoral law fell. This result reflected the difficulty of involving a significant majority of citizens around a technically complex issue and also suggested a different reading of the previous referendums, an expression more of a generic rejection of the traditional modalities of politics than an explicit indication in favor of a new electoral system. So this time the abstention did not testify to the desire to maintain a legislation favorable to party fragmentation, but more simply attested to a gap between the political dimension and the participation of citizens. In addition to the poor readability of the question, the excessive use of referendum institution by now transformed from an exceptional instrument into a usual and recurrent practice, often with contents and objectives that are difficult to understand. However justified, the gradual easing of participation, a clear symptom of the changed attitude of citizens towards politics, was confirmed by the European elections of theJune 13. (see table 16)