Italy: ook Ahead
Italy may be troubled by economic uncertainty and widespread violence, but Italian politics have been surprisir.gly^aimost'eertTy-<short of sound and fury for months. Thereocd chance, moreover, that this UBaecUS* toned calm will persist through the presidential election that will be held in The calo is more apparent than real, however: frportant events are taking plats,.and they are no less irroortant because they are occurring behino the scenes rather than in public clashes between parties. The chief issue remains the same: snould che Italian Communist party bearger end more feral role in the running of the country? Az ;he governing Chriscicnsearcn fcr ways to escape their deepening involvement wim the Cccswifstsr further concessions, their maneuvering prcaises to produce sooe fu damental changes in the workings of Italian politics.
The Persistent Stalemate
Italian party leaders have had to adjust to sudden and unexpected changes in the political ecuation during th? last three years. The firstameational referendumandslide victory for legalized divorce, suggesting that the influence of the Church-oriented Christian Democrats wasby secular trends in Italian society. Confirmationearhen the Communists surprised themselves and their rivals by scoring urtorececented gainsationwide regional and local elections. Then the major question became: would Italian voters trust the Ccraunists with as much power at the national level? The answer came last year when the Communists von even more votes in the parliamentary elec;icn;4 percent left themoints Behind the Christian Deeo;rats.
When the Christian Democrats were forced after the election to seek Communist abstention In parliament to install the Andreottithey billed the arrangementemporary expedicnt--o'ie designed to give theovernment until it became possible to
return to the "normal" relationship between majority and opposition. The precarious balance that produced the Andreotti government has persisted, however, and Andreoui--nov* well into his second year inalready exceededonths tne average lifespan ofItalian governments. In this period, the Christian Democrats have siade virtually no progressconvincing their traditional Socialist allies to rejoin the government--the onlyche Christian Democrats can untangle ther.seIves from Che Communists. And while the Ccmrunists have gained significantlegislativeormal say in key government policies--thoy have yet toreakthrough decisive enough to propel then into the national government.
With the parties so deadlocked, most political leaders sees- agreed on the desirability of avoiding disruptive public battles. This was most evident in the recent decision to postpone an important round of local elections that would have taken place this monch. Withercent of tho voters scheduled co go to thelargest numberthe elections ;iera snating upignificant test of relative party strengms. 3'jt the liiaued options available co the parties would have hindered efforts By any ofoubstantial gain in votes to political advantage. And in any event, the tension of an election campaign would havehreat to the Ardreotliis still seen By party leaders as the only alternative to another general election. Wast politicians prefer toeneral election now, because it would procatty aggravate the situation byurther gravitation of the electorate toward the Cocmunists and Christian uemo-crats.
The postponed local elections will now be held at the same time as another set of eunicipal contests in May orrtWtTncptne '
elections will be an even moret of voterent becausehird of the electorate will be invol
outcome is'td-ess likely to have icmediately disruptivehewever^ince it will occur near or during the last six msnths of Presidcnt^Leone'sso-called "whiteeginning onjring which the president cannot dissolve parliament and schedule a
parliamentary election is "thus unl ikely before the springeveral months after artew orosident has taken office. The parties could push for an election before the "white semester" but will be reluctant toveryihing in a
littleational eleclioii^rii^ith no viable alternative to tht Andreotti foreula, the pole keyed increasingly to the presidential election of
general contest when^Be^pring local racesafertheir
other parliamentary systems, he promulgates the laws, but the Italian president cay refuse Md ask parli-cent to reconsider; he is then obliged to promulgate the law only if the chaso-rs rcapcrove it. The president can call parliament into special session, dissolve it and call lor new elections, or refuse to dissolve it when requested. As president of the Supreme Court of Justice, he has ths potential to exert substantial influence in the administration ofincreasingly ioporunt field in view of the sharp rise in erice and political violence during recent years.
Politicians who wan; toresident8 willommon problem: ic will be harder than ever to get elected without the support of the Cormunlst Party. The Italian president is chosen by an electoral college consisting ofembers of parliament andepresentatives of theegional governments. As the second largest party in parliamenthe Coarunists have nearly alwaysignificant role In the presidential election, and have supported the winning candidate in three of the six contests held.
Ccestonist influence in the process is bcurwj to growesult of the sharp gainsarliamentary elections since Giovanni leo.ie became president For example. Communist support will for the first time be necessary toresident on the first threewhichwo-thirds majority. The simple eajorlty needed to win thereafter could be put together withoutnists. but just barely; the divisSsrss within Italian parties and the tendency ofo act independently willictory without Connunist support extremely difficult.
This fact has both immediate and long term implications for the political competition between the Communists and Christian Democrats. In Immediate terms, for example, the reluctance if leading candidates to alienate the Communists gives theactical advantage as it tries to pryoncessions from the Christian Democrats and other parties. The broader significance of the contest results, however,the likelihood that the present political Impasse will persist at least until tne election.
Wien the new president fs sworn In, Italy will probably still be balanced delicately between political eras. Just as today, the main protagonists are likely to agree that the traditional political formulas no longer aaply but to be unclear about what should core next.
In such an atmosphere, the Italian presidency couldore Influential post, particularly if occupied by soseone with Moro's oracular tendencies or Ardreotti's tactical skill. ne emerged.
idely respected leadertrong political base could use the powers of tha presidency toey role in determining when and how the current political isoasse is resolved. By his various decisions, by the tone he sets, and through his consultations with party leaders, an activist president could help tip the balance toward or away from the Communists.
The president's role could became especially significant if the Christian Democrats conclude over the next year or so that the Coccunists can no longer be kept cut of the government. onclusion is by no means out of the question; indeed, ore of Italy's most prominent political scientists suggests that the Christian Oeeocrats' desire to hold on to the presidency will be the factor that finally leads then toeal bringing the Ccominists 'r.to the goxeramont. In that event, the Christian Democrats would probably try to soften th;act by stressing the president's constitutional rolealance between the branches of government and casting him as the guarantor of Italy's republican institutions.
By ensuring ;hat the presidential contest will be the nextdecisive event on Italy's political horizon, theengthy period of time to sort out their options. period, the Communists will be seeking to further neutralizesentiment and to consolidate and expand tneir fornal rolegoverning
Communist chief Berlinguer's recent response to some critical questions froa the Catholic hierarchy is the latest example of the party's effort to ease lingering misgivings about its plans.etterrominent bishop, Berlinguer asserted In essence that the Church had nothing to fear from the Coanuntsts; he denied that the party planned to eliminate Catholic schools and other religiousin areas it governed and asserted that religious faith and membership In the Coirramlst Party are not Incompatible.
of the top Coirmunist leadership Berlinguer's letter and that the final etariat and the directorate, flcrlinguar
_ views the result designed to appeal to voters ever leaders.
party's basic documents, of Christian Democratic
most intense and sustained an "historic compromise"he Church haslearly left the door open
Serlincuer's contents have provoked political debate since3 call fcr Ccmmunists and Christian Democrats. Vhil skeptically to Cerlinguer'so further confronto.
apparently-be1ieve-the-Communists*are cnangubli' the^cipjis^con cradle
While working to dampen fears about the party's ultimate intentions, the Communists will be trying to gradually broaden the scope of their formal role in policy making. ecent parliamentary debate on foreign policy, for example, the Communists maneuvered the other parties backing Andreotti intooint resolution co foreign policy.
This resolution merely expressed supportariety of non-controversial goals but it was significant as the first instance of foraal agreencnt behe Communiststner parties on foreign policy. Thus the Communists cite it as evidence that the ongrara-attc agreement reached by the government with the Comnunists and other parties last sureer has been expanded to Inciude foreigntep the Christian Oemocrats strenuously resisted during the original negotiations.
The Christian Oemocrats playhe incident, claieing thatpolicy statement was not negotiatedign ievel in eitheror the party. But even if the resolution was essentiallymishap, the relatively relaxed reaction to it speaksthe changing attitudes toward the Connunist Party. Just twoa rumor that the Communists were prepared to abstainotenational budget was enough to seturor in the
Democratic Party; voting together on foreign policy then would have been completely out of the question. ,
As .important ai such symbolic advances are to tne Communists, the party is likely to soend core time over the next year working quietly to increase its actual influence in the governing process. Few items willigher priority on the party's agenda than Hs c'.'ort to ensure full implementationecent lawweepingof powers and patronage to theegional governments. The Communistsita! st3ke in the matter, because they now participate directly
"The Church is pressing the party to confront In particular the contradiction between various articles of its constitution which stipulates, on the one hand,.that one can belong to tne party irrespective of race or religion and philosophical conviction and, on the other, that members must subscribe to and implement tfarxist-Lenlnist teachings.
f tht resiJ"jl go.erntrents ond have some kind of consultative rolethers.
Under the new law, the regions are scheduled toyriad of governmental functions in fields such as agriculture, education, tourism, and public assistance. Although these peers were gi to the regions by8 constitution,as not5 that parliament passed the necessaryrn gave the government two years to workecentralization program.
The program was finally announced last sunroer--achaired by the Communistsey role In shapinga host of technical problems has he'd up the transfer to theauthority and funds to assume their new responsibilities. Behindthe Christian Oemocrats and Communists are still hagglingpaints that will affect the actual amount of patronage andto the regions. The game, is far from over, but chancesduring the nexttransfer Is supposed to boearlythe Corzuntsts wilt absorb many joss and powers thatbeen the preserve of tne traditional goverrUng^wrt^es^
The Christian Oemocrats' strategy for coping with al! of this seems to center on the hope that tine Is on their side--and worMng against the Communists. ssence, the Christian Democrats hope thai the Cxraunfsts, Use the Socialists before thest, will have their uniqueness destroyed by growing involvement In the governing process and that the party will eventually suffer electorally from the contradiction inherent in its effort toparty of struggle" whileparty of government."
At first glance, it appears that the Christian Democrats might be on the right track. The Corsunfst Party Is experiencing Its mostInternal debate of the postwar period, and the costs in terns of internal unity have been heavy. The Communists' young supporters seem disenchanted, while many of the party veterans feel angry and betrayed by Brrlinguer's policies. Ills overture to the Church, for example, is seen byn the party as oneeries of expedient moves which arc gradually robbing the party of its identity. The party's membership drive is flagging, and its union leaders are chafing under the restrictions that Ccsanjnlst political aims place on organized labor-in which the Cocnunists remain the dominant party.
But the other side of the coin is that the Christian Democrats--whose electorate breaks down along roughly the same socio-economic lines as themany of the same problems.* Their labor leaders are eaually angered by tlte government's austerity policies, and Christian Democratic traditionalists are as unhappy as the Communist
"The most recent research on Italian voting patterns shews that the two parties havetr-'kingly similar In this respect. The socio-economiche Cowunlst electorate (with comparable figures for the Christian Democrats Innskilled workers and farm6killed workers,8hite collar workers, shopkeepers, artisans, snail businesscen,usinessmen, executives,8ercent).
base wilh the growing cooperation between tht twoTfn>ith tlie situatign-the Communist Party.
The Christian Democrats, moreover, cannot safely bet that the various dilecmas plaguing the Communists will leadecline in their electoral support. The Christian Democrats,arty that has remained Italy's largest forears--despite its interclass makeup and its constant occupation of government--are well aware that governmental responsibility does not have to lead to electoral decline. There is still no force on the leftredible challenge to the Communists, so that despite their dissatisfaction, Cosmunist supporters may have little choice but to stick with the party. Otherorganization, the secular trends in Italianalso help the party hold its own at the polls.
But perhaps the greatest potential pitfall for the Christianis 'hat suggestedeader of theirctior. in corrr.fints on last sucmer's prograra accord. Heear that inthe agreement, the two parties arenew culture, without an explicit debate, without the necessary clarity." In short, running the country for an extended period through such ad hoc cooperation is gradually making acceptable routine out of procedures that were once unthinkaDle. To the extent thai that happens, the pressure to returnystem less open to the Ccraiunists will diminish.
Such pressures in fact already seem to be recedingesult of the widespread impression, at least in the key northern industrial areas, that the various Improvements ineduced balance of paymentstablebe traced to thetanding reached by the Communists and Christian, pTOrfltfi Wfc piPdr'i.tVi i
lhe one development that could mosl likely delay or derail tne trsna
toward closer relations between the tyoSocialist decision to rsjoin thedoes not seem to be in the cards. The Christian Democrats continue to pay lip service to the "essential" position of theare the only party large enough to give the Christianon-Communistfew political leaders seem to take seriously the possibilityew Socialist-Christian Democratic partnership. The Socialists are still staggering from their failure to
gain any ground in the las* election, after operating for two years cn the assumption t'tat distancing themselves from the Christian Democrats would reverse their sliding fortunes. Willi the Socialists have btcn caught up in factional feuding, the Ccirr-unlsts have gradually acquired the Imageoderatc reformist party', leaving little political space for the Socialists. Some optimists in Italy still cling to the hopehe-Socfalists will-be able tout at this point'the partyn.its way .to joining the ranks of smaller ones, like th* Socialepublicans and Liberals, who have all become marginal participants In. the political game.-
In any event, none of these issues seem likely to comeead before the presidential contest is seriously underway. At that point, however, the parties will be underpressure to make choices--and their choices could do more than anything since6 parliamentary election to chart the future course of Italian politics.
One of the presidential hopefuls.Ree-jblican leader la Haifa, has been arguing for sc^e. tine tl.a'- th-t existing under Andreotti his ill ;nc disadvantages and nonahef the "historichat the Ccmcuntsts are able to enjoy considerable influence without having to bear an equal measure of responsibility for government actions. According to La Haifa, thopolicy plans and their coMiitment to dcrocracy should be tested by allowing thca to participate now and by forcing the party to commit itself unmistakably to specific remedies for iuly'i problems.
s seems likely, the political stalemate dragsno solution in sight and with the Communists continuing to Inch toward power--more Italian leaders might begin thinking like La ^alfa. In short. It would not be surrrising if, as the presidential election draws near, key Italian politicians stop thinking so much about how to keepparty out of government and begin thinking more about how to bring itthe least amount of domestic ano International trauma.Original document.