February 23, 2007

It Was The One-Armed Leftists!

The fall of Romano Prodi's government has Italians furious with the center-left coalition he formed after the elections last April. None have received more scorn than two Communist Senators who made a point of not voting in support of Prodi's pro-American foreign policy, and none have backpedaled with more energy:

THEY'VE been branded "traitors" and "bastards" and worse. But the two left- wing senators who brought down Italy's prime minister, Romano Prodi, on Wednesday night say they didn't mean to do it.

"Maybe if I knew my vote was so fundamental, I would have reflected a bit," said Fernando Rossi, a 60-year-old communist, sounding apologetic.

He and the other senator, a Trotskyite with the Communist Refoundation Party, tried their best yesterday to deflect blame. But with left-of-centre newspapers screaming headlines like: "They betrayed 19 million voters", it was a hard sell.

"First off, I didn't vote against it. I abstained," said a defensive Franco Turigliatto, who says he will quit the Senate. "Second, it wasn't me who was the determining factor."

Until last April's election, Italy's Left had been in the wilderness for five years while Italy's richest man, Silvio Berlusconi, a conservative media mogul, ran the country with a pro-US foreign policy that included Iraq peacekeeping.

Mr Prodi accelerated the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, but angered senators like Mr Rossi and Mr Turigliatto by not ending Italy's participation in an Afghanistan peacekeeping mission.

The foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema, told the press that Italy was a "country of madmen," lamenting the Trotskyites in the Italian Senate. A former Communist himself, he rather angrily denounced the contingent, saying that this kind of betrayal is hardly unexpected and could have been worse still. An Italian political analyst noted that Italy may be unique in the depth of its anti-American political sentiment and that Prodi should have expected the reduced cooperation with America to still be too much for them to support.

This may still be good news for Prodi. He can still attempt to reforge a center-left coalition, and the Communists will not have anywhere else to go. Facing another stretch of years with a center-right ruling coalition governed by Silvio Berlusconi, the Communist defectors will face tremendous pressure to stop acting out and remain loyal to the Prodi coalition.

Prodi might seek to teach them a lesson by holding another round of elections, too. That would force Rossi to defend himself, while Turigliatto quits rather than explain how his grandstanding didn't contribute to the fall of Prodi's rule. Perhaps they can find the One-Armed Leftist to blame for the thin margin of failure, but from the tone of the Italian media, I doubt the voters will buy it.


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