Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Spreading Italian Corruption Scandal Exposes Dark Side of Political System

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Spreading Italian Corruption Scandal Exposes Dark Side of Political System

Article excerpt

THEY call the scandal tangentopoli, or "Bribery City."

The scandal began to unfold a year ago with the arrest of Mario Chiesa, an Italian Socialist Party functionary, who was caught taking a $5,000 bribe for a hospital contract. Mr. Chiesa was found guilty and his arrest proved to be the beginning of an ongoing drama.

In the months since, dozens of politicians from various parties have been arrested or notified that they are under investigation for corruption. Daily headlines proclaim new developments in the case.

What the judicial investigations in Milan, Rome, and other cities promise to lay bare is how Italy's system of partocrazia, or party rule, has worked. For decades, mammoth state-run companies have been the fiefdoms of political parties, contracts have been awarded to companies that give kickbacks to the coffers of the various political parties, and a system of "recommendations" has become entrenched. It is extremely difficult, Italians say, to get a good job in or out of the state system without a political patron.

"People are very interested in politics at this moment, but they're also very disgusted," says Stefano Ceccanti, a member of People for Reform, a movement led by Christian Democrat Mario Segni.

Student Alexia Necci says there is no politician that she likes.

"They're all thieves," adds an art director for a Rome publisher, who asked not to be named. "All of them."

In the year since Chiesa's arrest, Italy has changed markedly:

* Giulio Andreotti, prime minister in six Italian governments, was side-lined after fed-up voters in the April 1992 parliamentary elections punished his Christian Democratic Party and other coalition parties.

In a three-page letter last week, Mr. Segni said that part of the Christian Democratic Party was "already condemned," proposed the creation of a Popular Party, and asked reformist Christian Democrat leader Mino Martinazzoli to join him in creating it. The latter is cool to the idea.

* Bettino Craxi, the 16-year leader of the Socialist Party and former prime minister, resigned Feb. 11 as party secretary. …

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