PRELIMINARY ITALIAN ELECTION OUTLOOK

Created: 6/5/1980

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PRELIMINARY ITALIANUaOOK

Italy's votersoolls this wcW io elect Ii regional councils, SS provinoinl cc:<ncils, andOO municipal ati'iniatrations. Although the elections uillirect iitpaat ui/on the lotpJWi of forces in parliament, eounilal uilhin the C'iristicnc Tarty almost guarantees ttiey uill touch off etill another goven^tent crisis. Tiitee elections uill be interpreted not onlyeferendum on the present government but also on the leadership ond strategies of theajor parties: the Christianemocrats, the Canonists, and the Socialiets.

A Lackluster Caapalqn

it til lesseek left In the campaign for Italy's nationwide local electionsune, the parties have been trying desperately to drua up enthusiasmenerally unresponsive public. They appeared to have some success several'weeks ago wheneaders officially opened the campaign with great fanfare at large ralliesany major cities. But the campaign quickly shrank toweekend affair In which politicians traded rhetorical broadsides and alternated

these with calls for moderationaccjl.jn free oft Is only

since last week that the campaign has coved Into high gear--courtesy of-

erls determinedthese administrative contestseferendum oh the Cosslga government--has sharply attacked and provoked ee-ially pointed countercharges from both the Christian OecocraUc end Socialist parties. It Is uncertain whether these new tactics will be able to capture the imagination of the Italian voting public, which until now hasest to prevent the-campaign from intruding into everyday life

Although the elections will have no direct impact on theovernment, they will be taken as barometers of the parties' relative stretgths-aod indicators of public-opinion on key questuch: whether the Communists will move closer to or fartherirect role In the national government. With so much athe .muted tone of the .iarly campaign can be explained In psrt by the fact thateaders were wary of taking risks when even_sl'1ght voting shifts could cake the difference between victory and defeat. On thr other hand, continued voter indifference to the.campaign undoubtedlypreading of the recent rend toward greater apsthy--the feeling, that whatever the outcome of the contest, there will be llttje progress madi In finding political solutions

to Italy's myriad probl&is. The_focd of the Electorate

Voter apathy and cynicism are apparentumber of waysfrom the parties' Inability to fill the piazzas for rallies'to the Radical Party's call to boycott th* vote as an expression of disgust with politics as usual Perhaps the most striking manifestation of the current political climate is the proliferation of local lists ranging from ecological groupsarty promising toof Maples to entries espousing the philosophy of punk rock.

Even the legendary economic crisis does not seem capable of spurring voter interest. In northern and central Italian cities, there are few visible indications that an economic crisis exists. Conspicuous consumption remains the order of the day. Italians seem able to maintainomfortable ief'style because of the all-pervasive "black economy." In an Italianhe father may hold two jobs, the mother may work, and thewho might live at home until their middle or lateprobably also employed. In thiswith some help from automatic wage Indexation--

also employed. In this

the family Income can triple, allowing it to stay ahead of inflation.,

midst of this apparent prosperity, the structural problems of

remain. There is much talk about what needs to be done to

problems, but there appears to be little consensus and even less

major threats to Italian economic well-being are Inflation and

-the-goverracnt's rel-iance-oncruM^ but the situation seems to be dttoVloratThgT'The larger Italian firms such as Fiat have lost their competitive edge In the world market due to inflation and inefficiency. The "Italian economic miracle" is sustained only by virtue of snail and ralddlc-iiied firms-many within the blackbecause of increased production and aggressive marketing techniques help keep the economy afloat. In view of the.Italian publ .c's . mbivalent attitude on foreign policy Issues, it is likely that the gfivPfTLT^nt's future decisions on key issues will followa pattern of-compromise.

Cj-paiqn Out! Ines

r'sir-^tt'ls'in this complex and confusing nexus of issues that -

million Italians will vote fori^rr^^rj. councils, and

roots level, government performance must be the basis on^which_-the voter

casts his vote, local issues have.been^-overshadowed, by.larger "national'""

aniXnterrationarcrjestions in the campaign,-

they are Christian Democrats, Ccrniunlsts, orto be

encouraging this-trend. Despite formaldefonses of their record incumbents

are:acutely .aware-that Incumbency Is morerawback-than

frt/Jo-additittflT-thealmost;certainly: .it is easier, to appeal to voters by trumpeting anti-teanun.lsm-or warning.

hift to the right. Consequently, it was Inevitablethat the government and its domestic and foreign policies wouldmajor issue of the campaign. The parties of the

Christian Democrats, Socialists, and Republicans-oust defend their

decisions to participatehe coalitionhe hope that the electioniable ,thon to strengthen their hold on power and perhaps give each of thea greater leverage over its partners. On the other hand, the opposition -primarily the Communists, Social Democrats, end Liberals-are content to hammer away at the three-pacty arrangement In anticipation that after the vote the Cosslga government will become either the bridge to the left' or the "bridge to the right" it has variously been portrayed as being.

In combating these expressions of uneasiness, the parties have ' taken different tacks: ecurrent theme in the Communist campaign has been that the party defends the interests of those on the marginsociety. To appeal to the young, the Conrnunlsts-distributed pop art campaign posters and warm up the crowds at political rallies with rock music concerts. Christian Oemoerats, on the other hand, are aiming at the more mature voter. Their campaign posters picture very solid middle-cl^ss and middle-aged candidates; the party obv'^usly rs hoping that in times of trouble, the electorate will favor tried-and-true parties and policies. The Socialists are trying to counteract their Image as the party of crisis by filling their posters and speeches with specific policies they would follow if they were elected. Despite their efforts to attract voters, the parties may find that the electorate's verdict will once again be

Party Strategic!

The sharp defeats the Cvmunists suffered In the national, turopean Parltj=cnt and scattered local elections last year have Rv.de this June's vote atest. The Ccwavntsts need to improve significantly onr's totals In order to remain in control of the regional governments (Lonbardy, Piei-cnt, Ligurla, and La2io) and major city Administrations (Turin, Tone, and "aplcs) they gained Introngshowing couldoost toward achieving their goalirect role in the national governing process.

Thee facing an uphill battle In trying to repeaterformance. The unrealistic expectations the partyong Oe voterscar trend.of ralaiiinnistri tion . by the Christian Democrats are now. coming to haunt the Cectuinlsts. Italian voters seen to believe that therecord" has. beenlthough, on the whole, It ippears that leftist adalnlstratlons may haveit better than their predecessors, the Communists and their allies will be measured unfavorably against their5 campaign promises.

The party hopes to parry criticism of Its record by stressing its efforts to^improve the ouality.of life at the localcludlntr the Mrtstitutlbfl-*ofth and culand public works projects.

GOvcrr

But the aim of tht Coomunist campaign thus far has been to transform the local pollsational political contcst--fought on nattona1 and International Issues. ress conference last week. Communist arty chief Berlinguer solicited votes with the argument that these votes were necessary to hasten the collipsc of the Cosslgaand by clear implication the conservative majorities in the Christian Democratic and Socialist parties that sustain It. acit appeal for support among the leftwlng Christian Democratic and Socialist minorities, Berlinguer alsoall for the renewal of cooperation within thespectrum of progressive forces' leadingovernment of national unity Including the Ccawtunlsts. I

Berlinguer's harsh criticism of the Cosslga government Is anto bolster the party's role as an opposition force with Its traditional supporters; he contends that the agreement setting up the government is weak and the government's parliamentary majority isbecausendiscipline aracng Christian Democrats. In addition, Communist spokesmen constantly argue that the governmentove to the rightafter thebe consuataated with the formationive-party, anti-Communist majority including the Social Democrats and Liberals.

The Comsunists reserve their sharpest attacks for the govornrent's Jo-reign policy, pmstJUely becauseasecent tmii Berlinguer has called Cosslga to* task-for supinely" following "the US foreign policy lead. Cne of the Cccaunlst chief's favorite Ukbos during the campaign has been that the government's decisions to participate inlhe Theater Huclcar forces program, impose economic sanctions on Iran, and withhold national sponsorship and truncate the Italian contingent to the "oscow Olympics merely add io rising international tensions.

The Cccsr.un1sts are careful to assoclete their own appeals for peace and detenteerceived Europeansane spirit Lhat Imbued the recent Glscard and Schmidt initiatives. Berlinguer undoubtedly hopes to exploit whatever Italian sympathy exists for the Idea that European mediation is the only way to dampen the US-Soviet confrontation. Ke is betting that his party's sponsorshipeading political rolt for Italy In such an enterprise would offset any misgivings the Italian lectorate usually experiences about tho Intentions of his partyeriods of internationalperhaps even draw son* attention away from the mediocre record of leftist local governments.

the

al Ists at the

his and pari com

It is on these International issues that the Coramnlsts Have also directed their fire at the Socialists. While lauding cooperation between

call

ig for uore at Socialist ie sacrosanct

"tht

tne gave:

uiyo| us far ott doc' Inguer sion

almost certainly Is emphasizing these Issues in the hope that the Socialist leftopposed Craxi's support for the government on the Olympic Boycott-might be able to rein In the Socialist chief somewtul and perhaps even challenge him and his policies again after the vote.

the small extreme left parties and has even from these groups In Its own list of candidates.

Christian Democratic Strategy

ew representatives

conservative leadership and leftwlng minorities of the Christian Democratic party have differing election strategies, but it Is certain that all Christian Democrats hepe to avoid Internal dissension that might

damage the party's prospects at tht polls. At the local level. Christian

"Dgsmc rats" have as their staled objectiveithe-replacoBcnt

leftist coalitions with center-left combinations. As Ecrlinguer hasshift the campaign to national and international issues,havs been determined that the voteeferendum onlocal administrations. At the same time, themajority of the party obviously hopesoodthe Christian Democrats in the election will be interpreted asthew leadership and policy of treating the Socialistsprincipal interlocutor. esult might also improve theIn dealing with its governmenttherdght even convince the Christian Democratic left wing. if-with party dr-ctsiuns. if not rft-oncile itself toparty t

y is to keep some semblance of party unity. The tactic the conservatives have chosen has been te balance their enthusiasm over the Socialists' return to the government with pledges of allegiance to the concept of nationaleast theoretically leaves open the possibility of some limited cooperation with the Co-nunlsts. Consoriently, these Christian Deaocrats have concentratedpirited defense ofCossigant as the instrument that preserved the orime ministry for the party, brought Socialists into the government after aabsence', and still >reseaves-the-natioriaV Spokesmen for thisrty Secretary PiccoTt, formerVice Secretaryattln, and Party President Forlani) have been quick to point out; however, that conditions still do not exist for consideration ofommunistsoverning partner, and that any cooperation witharty would have to occur within the context of its.role in the opposition. In response to Berlinguer's recent polemics conservative Christian Democrats have contended that Communist attacks on thenot the attitude of Chr]stianmajor obstacles to closer ties.

with the US in

The Christian Democratic leadership has also focused on the accomplishment of the Cosslga governmentajor campaign theme. They cite the government's recent successes against terrorism and an agreement with the unions as proofhree-party majority can be an effective formula. They also defend the government's foreign policyparticularly the Iran sanctions and the Olympicindications

that It intends to continue expressing, fill the context of HATO.

Conservative Christian Democrats have sought to give Socialist chiefand in his confrontations with his party's left wing. By affirming that local coalitions do not necessarily have to reflect the situation of the government at the national level, they have sought to calm fears that the Christian Democrats would demand that Socialists break their local alliances with the Communists.

- Loftwingcrats-

posltlon of weakness. Ihey mightlight declineht electoral fortunes of theirif it providedith the

opportunity to challenge thethc -voto*-but

are wary thatight he blamed for Vplftt ing the party. For theseeasons, they haveguer's Invitation to challonje the party leadership after the vote. Consc-cjicntly, spokesmen for this group (including fo*ier Vice Secretary Colloni) are limited to expressing feeble dissent to seme of the government's foreign policies and expressing their opinion that obtaining Socialist support for the government is essential titanacea for solving Italy's problems, leftwfng Christiant bide their tine, hoping that perhaps Socialistn the election might be the catalyst necessary to1 .in-Dfc--s':ratlc leaders to increase cooperation with the Cacaunists.|

The Socialist ciJpalgn has been designed to* help'party chief Craxl to consolidate Ms leadership and political line within the party and to strengthen the position of his party within the government. Craxi has been riding highwitch of alliances within his party several months ago enabled him to gain the upper hand overo" nursuo his policy of cooperating with the Christianespite his victories,"Craxi's position within the party remains tenuous. The

Socialists must perform well in the election toreconflrm his-polltical-

lineandpermit-him topurging the'" at an extraordinary Socialist congress int the semeocialist election victory would also incease the party's Influence within the Cosslga gnvfrnc.-nt aja] BflajlM* liy the groundworkuture coalition led by Craxl.

In order to achieve these objectives. Craxl Is compelled to maintain atacade of party unity. While, seeking to defend h': decision to participatehe Cosslga governxent, Craxl hopes t* avoid antagonizing his party's left wing and prevent the Communists from attacking the vulnerable Socialist position In the government. The Socialist electoral campaign haswo-pronged effort to defend cooperation with the hristian Democrats at tht rationalfltrd promote alliances with tht Communists in the localities.|

Craxi's appeals to the voters have focused on the argument that the Socialists represent the party of stability- by joining the coalition they averted another dissolution of parliament and general elections. Craxi has responded to Berlinguer's recent offensive against Socialist participationhe government and support for its policies by

turning the Chirac, back on the Ceoaunists. y reaffirming that Socialist participation in thent is necessary tg avoid politicalhas accused Berlinguer of da'rjylrj' Interests o'fiJe^icracy,llrlJJffli*ira

Aside from providing aof'.y, Craxiod to the left-that the Socialists' role In the goverrrtent assures thenare of.power and creates, the conditions that ventually could lead to Ccmrunist participation in the national governing process. It is in terras ofole for the workers in the goverrvreiil that Craxi has gone so far as to reevaluate positively the experience of the center-left'govfci'ivacnts of.

Craxl Mas balanced his evaluations of the national political situation with statinients that tho Socialist objective at the local level Is the

preservation of. tha local leftist coalitions. Sy affirming that the

national sovtrn'ng fomula Is not automatically transfcrabla to the localities, Craxl obviously intends to reassureSocial Ists who owe their positions and authority to agreements with the Communists. At the-sone tine, Craxi has qedged his bets" by declaring that even the Socialist experience govsrnlnrj with the Christ-fen Dftsncrats.-at. the loeiT Tcvel" ha> bsen posit'vc in jvathe Socialist chief undoubtedlyessage that his party ufght consider switchingoae local governments after theif the Christian .Democrats offer the rfgrjt.price. He.ultimately may .hopetouse local govcrrment allianoes as bargaining-n his bid to capture the prime'ministryuture government.

Finally, Craxi is hoping to benefit from the Radical Party's decision not to contest the election. The Socialists hope to pick up the votes of young Radical supporters by including representatives of that.party in Socialist election lists, ln addition, the Socialists have associated themselves closely with the Radical Party's sponsorship ofeferenduas (ranging from the abolition of life sentences to the prohibition ofraxi himself has signed three of the petitions.

In the face of Craxi's many machinations during the campaign, the Socialist left wing is apparently denoralUod. With the failure of last winter's challenge of Craxl's leadership and policies, the Socialist left wing S'-ems greatly weakened, fragmented, and in retreat. These Socialists have been virtually excluded from positions in the goverronenti and

though they continue to criticize their party's support Tor stfe sovernaent

policies,st athe outcoce of the election before maUng

-their-next move. As wKh the Christianthewing is in the difficult position'of"hopingnorerformancerrwidnatalyst to change the party's leadership and policies.

Others

Republicans during this campaign have tried to use theirthe government to counteract the impress ion lhat the party has been ; the death of Ugoilfa last year.Mich as thefcepublicans hope to portray themselvesesponsible party that,. jmhelping Italy emerge froa Us political crisis. Partyalso isoter--perception, that, the .Kef*'Oilcans.!

nubile sector deficit, and

stance on the Communist issue is ambiguous; he is continuing the move already begun by La Kalfa, backing away.from support for Communist'/ participation in the government and promoting the ides of dialogue. The Republicans undoubtedly have taken this tack because they mustth the stronglyunist Social.Dssocrats and Liberals for votes. The Republicans havene stop further than the Social Democrats by declaring that they would no longer participate in local governments with the Communists after the vote. Another major theme of the Republican campaign has been to repel thettacks on the^ government's foreignvpol.lcy. artd to .'call for strong- Ital Ian support'"of Washington. Domestic policies-and particularly economic responsibility remain the Republican forte; they stand virtually alone in their articulation

of programs to tackle inflation, curb th correct economic structural imbalances.

The Social Oemocrats under Party Secretary Longo have been cooipaignlng as the underdog. They are determined to appeal to the lower middleteachers, pensioners, and others hurt most by Inflation. The Social Democratic objective is to score gains that will convince the parties in the ruling coalition to expand the government to include both themselves and the Liberals. .The Socfemocratic tactico assume the mantle of the true anti-Communist opposition by portraying the Cossiga governmentridge to the left. The Social Democrats are vulnerable on this point, however, because they have already stated their intention to continue in local leftist coalitions even after the election. In terms of foreign policy, the Social Democratsin the forefront of those Italians declarinrj themselves in favor of complete solidarity with the US and have attacked the governaent for notirmer line on issues like the Olympic boycott and Iran sanctions. The Liberals appeal to many of the same constituencies as the Social Democrats and have echoed the larger party's campaign themes. The Liberals have no real hop* of making inroads that would entitle themhare of the power either at the local or natlonaperhaps la-thc WlKerend toward five-party, non-Communist majorities.

cideds ted

efault-of-Jtal-ian slat 1st real as itunction of theeluctance to confide to

'he pollster his true feelings about parties ami issues, for

reason. Italian po'itlcal colls usuallyarge iw*ber of unqeci right up until the vote.- In addition, the usefulness of tolls Is limited by the fact thst uven large, respected colling organizations tend to skc*it based on their o'.'n political affinities.

Localo*pl Icated by the face that the issuas vary so crtatly from locality to locality, Scne comparisons areased on generalproblems for instance. But even these are measureddifferentoter will not Judge the successes and failures of the Coonunist led governments In Bologna and Naples by thecriteria, tn general Urns, however, it.Is HVc'iy thattcnts will be held respnntiblr by the voters for Iheir failure to accomplish all they had promised. er probld* with making predictions this time around is the difficulty in determining the precise interplay of local, national, and International issues with hich the voter is faced as he tr.les .toerson in Fuglia vote agairst the Christian Democrats becauseunicipal scandal or will he vote for the party because of an uncertain international situation? Itood bet that the voter will be motivated more by bread-and-butter concerns thanby distant issues that touch his life peripherally if at all.

important variable In this vote is the ro Italian abstainers are divided Into three groups:

go to the polls, those wholank ballot, and those who destroy or deface their ballots. An abstention of the first type indicates apathy and probably will be more damaging to Incumbents than to the opposition The more active types of abstention almost certainly reflect dissatlsfactl

Theniii K"

it

with existing conditions and siphonrom those parties out of power In last year's vote the nonvoting abstentions outnumbered, invalid ballotsittle more than two to one. /his Mtio representsarrowing of the gap from recent years, and if this trend holds, could mean that the abstention variable in this electionamaging to incumbents than it will be to opposition pa.-ties.

on

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"The "Jlrtlvi willInst-prcvlous-perforaences. It willnof-lCTtarliamentary voteas5 Tccal Contest*:- Iir.cTMsi teras,-victory-and defeat

end political Iciiiings. fcrVii'thii

vould be for the psrty to repeat or ere -close to scoringhe vote it talliedRkihSwjif It is aboveercent share of theceuld be consider.*! For the Sccial Ssts, ther.um'.'M isercent ofthey gainedoint below thisspell disaster,anythl^ig Eprcaching theirercentwill beriuaph. Tieare hoping notbelcw4otaJ Tatbelow

percent thresholdcn the other, hand.

v:hino balqw their recovery

closer to4 pcr-ent it. It could claim to ve-xons^idatod^Mt^

do rtotery wide narjlr. of fleriil of last year will beefst

.

matanjmaaa.

such cifficullIeSir riprossion.thatr tat ions W? ptrfoind Socic.L. Csts-should do siand liberals probably will

it worse.

... _

Ift!termVofhese resulrobably would mean thatuld lose control In-scase-Including*ould hang "on elsewhere, pos'lVy including Turin. In most cares, this electoral scenario would make vhe balance of power so closelocalities that it would be difficult to forn either leftist or cntacr-left coalitions without protracted, dif'icult negotiations. oitcccie of this bargaining undoubtedly would depend oa whether tie pivotal* ware ofhe Communists or the Chrfistaai Der.ocrats.

f

Operating under these results. Srcfolist leader Craxi most likely would be able to continue Ms party's participation in the government. He probably woulc be unable,either to purge the Socialist le't wing or demand the prise ministry froa tfte Christian Democrats. On the other htNd, tht conservative Christ Iht Earaocratic leadership probably would consider theinor setback for their policy of 'confronto' with the Socialists. These Christian Democrats most likely would be able to contain their control of the party, but their position would bey might be forced to natehr party's left wing--perhaps in terms of leadership

iheir election prcsr-rets only days >tfjrt 'zSH torVfejns itout to Itt ur of iheterrorista Mrlf&entaryh*inister ofbys ccso under

iKrcatlitg erasurei^n

Theaf*' t*t> itito

bring ;hooint session

Thoinister w. trja/titKe

secretaries of the parties thatnd hepostpone his decision on rati^elnn .millresults ofhave been assessed. J

The Cersjnists ap?*ar to have been strensthtrad =ty the affair. provided then tht meaty election issue they hail? been searchingallows then to counter Christian SeOTCratic atreapts toterrorismoffimunist-spaur-ednor. Thehad hoped to score some cai-is ai the yolTs this usefcend, but .'party officials will be relievedtj' energes froawith9 totalsristian TenocratlcIr. northern luly sense that iht lonat-Cajrirrj-Cosslgabatheir area hut Its effects In tie south arebe

This latest turn of events se-ms to insure? trat 3taly will undergo another of its periodic government crises by early uurily. If the nanbers of Cosslga's coalition return fro- the polls wf thstandings relatively unchanged, Cossiga wouldair chance of beitirrg back the opposition's expected challenge. Under those circumstances his tenure would rest upon his willingness to riskreputation againsc. Che caprices of the parliamentary process. In the event that mont-rs af -the oajoHtyetback, however, their support for Cossiga wou'i -rsaken and induce him to resign. The parties, however, would probatly persuadetl stay in office until after President Carter's wlsft Co allow thea time touitable governing forcula aad avoid the embarrassment of holding a, maioiL-Interrtational conference xithore*2ker governaent as host.

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