HISTORY OF ITALY FROM 1980 TO 2010
Italy The Second Republic
1990s, Tangentopoli, Mafia and the Second Republic
In 1992, Bettino Craxi, associated by many to widespread corruption, is greeted by a salvo of coins as a sign of loathing by protesters. From 1992 to 1994, Italy faced significant challenges as voters disenchanted with political paralysis, massive government debt, extensive corruption, and organized crime’s considerable influence collectively called the political system Tangentopoli (bribe-city).
As Tangentopoli was under a set of judicial investigations known as Mani Pulite (Clean Hands) led by a young and tough magistrate Antonio Di Pietro. Voters demanded political, economic, and ethical reforms. The Tangentopoli scandals involved all major parties, but especially those in the government coalition: between 1992 and 1994 the DC underwent a severe crisis and split into several small groups such as the Italian Peoples’s Party and the Christian Democratic Center.
The PSI (along with other minor governing parties) was completely wiped out of the political scene. Two prominent magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were looking into corruption and the links between politics and organized crime in Sicily, are assassinated. An explosion destroyed Falcone’s car by a remote-control bomb set up by the Corleonesi clan in May 1992, on the motorway, near the town of Capaci. On July 9 of the same year, his colleague Paolo Borsellino is killed as well by a mafia car-bomb in Palermo.
1994 - Berlusconi’s Forza Italia
The 1994 elections swept Milanese media tycoon and real-estate broker Silvio Berlusconi, founder of a new party, Forza Italia, and leader of the Polo delle Liberta’ (Pole of Freedoms coalition) into office as Prime Minister. Berlusconi, however, was forced to step down in December 1994 when Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord, a crucial ally, withdrew its support. The Berlusconi government was succeeded by a technical government headed by Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, which left office in early 1996.
The April 1996 national elections sanctioned the victory of a centre-left coalition under the leadership of economist Romano Prodi. Prodi’s first government became the third-longest to stay in power. He had to resign when he had narrowly lost a vote of confidence in October 1998. A new government was formed by Massimo D’Alema leader of the Democratici della Sinistra (Democrats of the Left, a new name of former communists).
In April 2000, as a result of a poor showing of his coalition in regional elections, D’Alema was forced to resign. The following centre-left government was headed by a former socialist Giuliano Amato from April 2000 till June 2001. Amato had already served as Prime Minister in 1992-93.
2000s - The new millennium: between Romano Prodi and Silvio Berlusconi
In the 2001 elections, the centre-right coalition headed by Silvio Berlusconi was able to regain power and keep it for a complete five-year mandate, (the longest government in post-war Italy). The elections in 2006 saw the return to power of the center-left coalition L’Unione made up of eleven parties.
Romano Prodi became Premier again. His victory was very slim in the Senate, also due to the new proportional electoral law introduced in 2005. In the first year of his government, Prodi had followed a cautious policy of economic liberalization and reduction of public debt. His government fell when it lost the support of a tiny centrist party led by Clemente Mastella.
In 2008, Silvio Berlusconi won again in a snap election with the Popolo della Libertà (People of the Freedom) party -a fusion of his previous Forza Italia party and of Gianfranco Fini’s Alleanza Nazionale- against Walter Veltroni of the Partito Democratico (Democratic Party).
2011 - The end of Berlusconi’s Regime?
In 2010, Premier Berlusconi’s government survived a confidence vote on December 14. Since then he has remained in power on shaky grounds. Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord support is crucial for his survival. Because of Premier Berlusconi’s personal problems, Italy’s international prestige has suffered and the country’s economic situation is in dire straits.