October 6, 2006

Prodi’s left turn

Italy’s budget according to The Wall Street Journal

It took Romano Prodi only a few months to dash hopes that his center-left government would be a reformist one. After a good start in deregulating some of Italy's service sectors and moving to lower government expenditures, the prime minister is back on traditional ground, pushing higher taxes and economic protectionism.
Mr. Prodi's problem is that he wants to be seen as a passionate left-winger and a liberal reformer. He can't be both. If he wants, as he claims, to revive Italy's economy, the reformer instinct will have to win out.

and The Economist

Those who hoped that Romano Prodi's centre-left government would end the three-card-trick techniques of public accounting so dear to his centre-right predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, must have been disappointed by its first budget.

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A spectre is haunting Europe-the Democratic Party of Italy

[Ahem, perhaps the title is not very descriptive, and besides, I am actually pro-Democratic Party—just look at the heading "superstitious practices warding off ill-luck" if you want to get through it ...]

How a Labour Party member of the British parliament, and former minister for Europe in Tony Blair's government, sees the incumbent centre-left Democratic Party in Italy. By Denis MacShane on openDemocracy’s website.

The creation of the Democratic Party in Italy is a decisive - and exciting - turning point in the history of progressive politics in Europe. For the first time in Europe there has been a serious attempt to overcome the party political divisions, often sectarian, of the 20th century. The left's fragmentation and its indifference to the heritage of European liberalism has allowed a more flexible democratic right to reorganise itself at key moments in 20th-century European history and form coalitions sufficiently attractive to voters to win power over long periods.
Where then does a united Italian Democratic Party fit into the European and international party organisations? There is now a degree of incoherence in the organisation of left parties internationally. The venerable Socialist International exists and allows a grouping of all the democratic socialist parties globally. The difficulty with the SI is that it has never allowed room for the US Democratic Party, since the latter clearly is neither socialist, nor interested in affiliating.
In this vacuum, the highly ideological Bill Clinton - a man who knows what Willy Brandt achieved at the Bad Godesburg congress of the SPD and what Felipe Gonzalez did when he forced the PSOE to drop Marxism from its statutes - helped set up the Progressive Governance network with Tony Blair, Massimo d'Alema, Gőran Persson and Gerhard Schröder in the late 1990s.
The creation of the new Democratic Party in Italy - whose new name echoes the great US Democratic Party of Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter and Clinton - is an important signal that Italian progressive politics is embarked on a new path.
The Party of European Socialists should welcome the Democratic Party of Italy without ambiguity as the realisation of the long dream of unification of all the forces for progress and reform in Italy. A double affiliation, at least in the first period, to both the PES and the European Liberal Democrats and Reformist Group (EDLR) should pose no problems.
Pan-European political organisation and party groups are still at an embryonic or learning stage. The Democratic Party of Italy can be an important force for the realignment of European politics and build bridges between Europe's parties of the left, as part of the effort to regain the ability to speak to each other and act effectively on the basis of unity and solidarity.