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For Berlusconi, another divorce? PDF Print E-mail
Apr 23, 2010 at 08:41 PM

When love has gone.....

Despite its success in Italy's recent regional and local elections, Silvio Berlusconi's party, the PDL, appears to be on the verge of a serious schism which could affect the Italian prime minister's plan to put through a series of major institutional reforms and possibly the country's stability in the near future. At the end of a meeting on Thursday of the ruling party's national directorate, it became clear that the already shaky relationship between Berlusconi and his former number two, Gianfranco Fini, currently the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and formerly the leader of the right wing Alleanza Nazionale party, had totally disintegrated.

The PDL (Partito della Liberta') was formed in March, 2008, when Berlusconi's Forza Italia party merged with Alleanza Nazionale. At the time, many thought Fini was likely to take over from Berlusconi at some point in the future. But since that time, the PDL's alliance with the populist Northern League and its controversial leader, Umberto Bossi, has become increasingly important, effectively leaving Fini on the sidelines. It was his renewed protests against the increased influence of the Lega - which did extremely well in last month's vote, for the first time winning the governorship of two of the 13 Italian regions where elections were held - that set off the latest crisis.

Alleanza Nazionale was formed in 1994 as a merger between two post-fascist Italian political parties, but under Fini's leadership the party increasingly divested itself of its Fascist heritage becoming a right of center party operating within, and fully respectful of, the confines of a democratic political system. In the last elections in which it ran as a separate party, in 2006, AN won over 12% of the vote. Fini has renounced fascism, travelled to - and been welcomed in - Israel and paradoxically has become one of the center-right's most liberal politicians. His open-mindedness and generosity on immigration, drugs, abortion and patients rights - for example he favors the living wills which currently don't exist here - had already put him at odds with Berlusconi and Bossi. He also as opposed some of the laws the Berlusconi pushed through to protect himself against prosecution while in office as well as some of the prime minister's proposed institutional changes. The result? Many Italians on the left have found it disconcerting to find themselves rooting for a former Fascist as a possible antidote for Berlusconi. But it was hard not to share that feeling.

Now, however, Fini appears to have misjudged the situation and made some sort of tactical error. For if he is expelled, or forced out, of the PDL, which might mean giving up his prestigious role at the lower house of parliament, it is not clear just how many of his former party colleagues - in 2006 the party had 71 deputies out of the 600 in the Chamber of Deputies - or supporters - will follow him.

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