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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