Government survival is in Dini’s hands

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Government survival is in Dini’s hands

18 Novembre 2007

The Prodi government survived a crucial
budget vote on Thursday night. However, it has become clear that by now it no
longer has a solid center-left majority in the Senate. While former prime
minister Lamberto Dini voted for the budget, he told the rest of the coalition
that he does not feel bound to support it in the future.


The budget vote passed by a majority of 161
to 157 votes. Currently, the center-left has a majority of only seat in the
Senate and of the non-elected life-time members of the upper house four voted
in favour of the budget, one abstained and one voted against it. This means
that on this occasion the non-elected members were not decisive in passing the
budget as the whole of the center-left voted in favor. However, this
constellation is likely to change in the near future.


Judging by Dini’s Senate speech and
comments made to journalists, he believes that the government is unable to
address the problems of the country and that Prodi should be replaced as prime
minister. He noted that on the grounds of “ethical principles” he would have
objected to the budget but that his sense of political responsibility made him
vote for it. He is also of the opinion that “it is necessary to overcome the
current political framework” and “that the government will not weather the
crisis”. Dini even said that the country is in a process of breakdown and  that it needs “another executive and another
majority”. It has become apparent that Dini is not the only center-left senator
to regard the government as a spent force. He has announced the formation of a
new political group, the Liberal Democrats which, according to him, will be
comprised of five members. Two of his allies, Willer Bordon and Roberto
Manzione, have confirmed that they feel free to vote as they please on any
upcoming proposal regardless of the consequences for the center-left majority.
Bordon added that there no longer exists a center-left majority in the Senate.


In a television interview a day after the Senate
vote, Dini explained in more detail what developments he expects in the near
future. He stressed again that he does not see a future for the Prodi executive
and that it would not be enough to merely reshuffle some cabinet posts to
revive the force of the government. He also excluded to enter the government if
he were offered a seat at the cabinet table. Instead, he promoted the idea that
the country needs an “institutional”, i.e. non-partisan, government to work on
the central challenges facing Italy at the moment. Dini himself briefly headed
an “institutional” government in 1995-1996 but he does not claim the
premiership this time and suggested Franco Marini, the current president of the
Senate as a possible head of government. Such an outcome does not look likely
at the moment since support for a non-partisan government is weak in both
houses of parliament.


Nonetheless, Dini’s comments have shaken
the political landscape. For Romano Prodi, the budget vote was a bitter-sweet
victory. His coalition marches on for now but has definitely lost its unity in
the Senate. His comments on Dini’s manoeuvre display a profound concern: “this
outlook increases the complexity of the political setting, it aggravates the
problems of the center-left and risks forcing the Communist Refoundation Party
to leave the government”. Without Dini and his Liberal Democrats, Prodi would
be left without a majority of elected senators and it would be highly
controversial and embarrassing to constantly rely on the life-time senators to
keep the government alive. At the same time, the prospect of a breakup of the
center-left has given the opposition the opportunity to draw some unexpected
benefit from the senate budget vote. Silvio Berlusconi has spoken with delight
of an “implosion” of the majority and sees the possibility of a definite
breakdown of the Prodi coalition still this year.