Italy's 20-month-old center-left government led by Premier
Romano Prodi quit on Thursday night after a Senate confidence vote
defeat which was largely due to the defection of a small centrist
party and divisions within the shaky governing coalition.
Prodi's administration, which has had a wafer-thin majority in
the 315-seat upper house ever since it came to power, lost in the
The government called confidence votes in the Lower House and
Senate after the small Udeur party withdrew its support following
last week's resignation of its leader, Justice Minister Clemente
Mastella's quitting followed news that his wife was being placed
under house arrest for allegedly trying to dictate certain hospital
appointments in their native Campania region.
It turned out later that he too was under investigation in the
same probe into an alleged web of corruption centered on the Udeur
Even before the withdrawal of the Udeur party, opinion polls had
shown that popularity of the center-left coalition sharply slipped
over the last year. The coalition has long been divided on a wide
range of domestic and foreign policies.
In order to maintain and consolidate the transatlantic ties, the
government decided to keep the scale of military presence in
Afghanistan and expand the US military base in Vincenza, Italy.
However, such moves were opposed by some parties in the
coalition such as the Greens and the Communists which advocated the
pullback of Italy's 1,900 troops from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, many campaign promises of Premier Prodi, a
68-year-old former economics professor and ex-chief of the European
Union Commission, remained unfulfilled.
He had pledged to reform Italy's costly pension system and boost
growth by liberalizing many areas of Italy's economy, from
insurance and banking services to taxis and pharmacies.
But the reforms were often hindered after street protests or
under pressure from the radical left in the coalition. Italy's
economy has remained sluggish compared with many other European
After Prodi's resignation, a new government led by a respected
figure or a technocrat could emerge to steer Italy's economy and
work out new rules for the electoral system, analysts said.
While that prospect is favored by Prodi's Democratic Party, many
small parties on both sides of the political divide fear that the
possible electoral reforms would reduce their weight in future
The conservative opposition led by former Premier Silvio
Berlusconi, however, is urging for dissolving the Parliament more
than three years ahead of its full term and call for elections in
"We need to go to the polls in the shortest time possible
without delay," Berlusconi said after the Senate vote.
Analysts here played down the impact of the government
resignation on Italy's economic growth, saying Prodi had been too
busy surviving politically to implement social and economic
They also voiced the expectation that future electoral reforms
could bring about more political stability, after the departure of
Prodi's administration, which was Italy's 61st government after
World War II.
(Xinhua News Agency January 28, 2008)