Italy Sorts Itself Out

Article excerpt

IT will be several weeks before all the implications of Italy's April 5 and 6 elections become clear. The parliamentary elections precede by just two months the June 3 election by Parliament of a new Italian president.

The first signs of where Italy is headed may be seen on April 23, when the current government resigns and the new Parliament meets to organize itself. Both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate will elect presiding officers. They and groups from each of the parliamentary parties will then consult with President Francesco Cossiga on who should be asked to form a new government.

What is clear, however, is that Italian voters registered a strong protest against the party system that has ruled the country since the end of World War II.

The Christian Democrats, the dominant partner in all government coalitions since the war, took a drubbing. While party insiders expected a 31 percent share of the vote, they ended up with only 29 percent. The government coalition, which included the Socialists, Liberals, and Social Democrats, got only 48 percent of the vote. Can that diverse grouping attract another party to form a majority and agree on a program for governing?

The Italian Communist Party, once the strongest Communist party outside the ex-Soviet bloc, has become an orphan. It has split into two parties, the hard-line Communist Refoundation, which got about 5.5 percent of the vote, and the moderate Democratic Party of the Left (PDS). …