The unprecedented government majority that resulted from the 2001

election and the radical promises of the prime minister candidate Silvio

Berlusconi had suggested that epochal change could follow the

alternation of government from left to right. Major constitutional and

socio-economic reform had been promised that would create a new,

successful, and dynamic country of which Italians could be proud.

More specifically, the public had been led to believe that the government

would enact strong federal reform while reinforcing the executive,

perhaps especially the prime minister, and introducing a new era

of markedly liberal economic policies. Thus, tax cuts and the promotion

of economic growth would create jobs and guarantee continuing

high standards of living. The government’s “honeymoon period,” however,

was short-lived. By the end of the year, trust in the government

had fallen to just below 50 percent, where it stabilized throughout

2002. Doubts about the government’s ability to deliver reflected its

poor performance on economic and social matters, resulting from both

the international economic downturn and its own mismanagement of

the domestic agenda, most notably industrial relations. By the autumn

of 2003, the Bank of Italy was drawing attention to a two-year period

of domestic stagnation and a decade-long investment slump.