The Second Berlusconi Government

in Italian Politics
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The year 2002 was expected to be an epoch-making year for Italian

politics. It was to be the first occasion to gauge whether things had

really changed since the “First Republic.” Between the end of that

“classical” regime in the early 1990s and the year 2001, some aspects

of politics had indeed altered, but the depth and durability of the move

to a new type of behavior was still at best uncertain. Polarization

between right and left had occurred, with the center squeezed in between.

That was new, at least ostensibly, but the shape that governments

were taking did not provide clear signs of transformation. On

the one hand, much had been transitional, as with the several “technical”

or “semi-technical” cabinets. On the other hand, much was old

hat: a center-right “majoritarian” coalition had fallen after only six

months in 1994—not a good omen for the stability of the “new” politics.

Developments during the 1996–2001 legislature reflected even

more a sense of déjà vu. With the president of the republic refusing to

dissolve Parliament, preferring instead to see the victor of the 1996

election, Romano Prodi—a leader without a party at his disposal, to be

sure—defeated by his own side, two other prime ministers (and three

cabinets) followed each other in less than three years. This scarcely

was in keeping with the goals of the “new” politics.

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