February 22, 2007

Italian Left Government Sabotaged By The Italian Left

In a strange development from Italy yesterday, the center-left government of Romano Prodi disintegrated when the Senate voted down key aspects of Prodi's foreign policy. What made it strange was that the defeat came from an effort from Leftists in Italy and not the Right. Prodi resigned as Prime Minister and no one knows whether he will get the chance to form another or whether elections will have to be held:

Romano Prodi resigned last night as Italy's prime minister after his government had suffered an unexpected defeat in parliament over its alliance with the United States and its role in Nato. Giorgio Napolitano, who as Italy's president oversees the making and breaking of governments, is to open consultations on the political future today.

It was not ruled out that Mr Prodi could be asked to form a new government, and a grouping of core parties in his coalition said last night that they were prepared to back him again. But his spokesman said: "He is ready to carry on as prime minister if, and only if, he is guaranteed the full support of all the parties in his majority from now on."

That support was signally lacking in the senate a few hours earlier, when the government sought a vote of approval for its foreign policy. Discontent on the left of his sprawling, nine-party coalition over the extension of an American military base and Italy's open-ended commitment to the Nato-led force in Afghanistan lay behind a two-vote defeat. Since he had not lost a formal confidence vote, Mr Prodi was not obliged to stand down.

This exposed the hypocrisy of the European Left when it insisted its anti-war activism only applied to Iraq, and that the Afghanistan effort had its support. The basis for this breakdown came from an American request to expand its facilities in Vicenza, which conducts support operations for the Afghanistan mission. This would normally have received a fairly straightforward approval, but in this case the Left wanted to use it as a wedge to end Italy's deployment with the NATO forces in Afghanistan.

It would have failed except for a bit of dramatic betrayal by one of Prodi's ostensible allies. Giulio Andreotti, a former PM himself, promised Prodi that he would support the government and vote for the motion. At the last moment, he abstained instead of fulfilling his promise, and Andreotti's example is believed to have convinced enough of the others to pull the rug out from under Prodi.

They may not have anticipated his reaction. This was not a confidence vote, at least not explicitly, and Prodi could have acted as though the loss meant nothing for the credibility of his government. Prodi apparently felt the sting of this betrayal a little too keenly to just sit back and take it, and instead resigned. That puts the Left in a tough spot. If they want to be part of the government, they have to back Prodi -- otherwise, they either have to win the next election or watch the Right take Italy back.

In either event, this just serves as confirmation that the Italian Left, and probably most of its European cousins, will have no staying power in a war against terrorism. Given the chance, they will run away from the hard work of fighting and beating the terrorists before they can organize into larger and deadlier organizations that will attack Europe for its fecklessness before it attacks America for its strength. Italians should consider the transient courage of their Left when the next elections are held.


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