Communists and German Nationalists: Italy’s “Broad” Coalition

Posted by John Rosenthal

The extent to which the apparent victory of Romano Prodi’s "Union" coalition in the Italian elections depended upon the support of Communist and "post"-Communist forces could easily be overlooked.


The "Democrats of the Left", the largest component of the "Union" coalition, is in fact the latest incarnation of the old Italian Communist Party, which in 1991 jettisoned the word "Communist" from its name, re-baptizing itself the "Democratic Party of the Left" (PDS). Two other, relatively more "orthodox", communist formations – orthodox enough, at any rate, to retain the word "Communist" in their names – also form part of Prodi’s coalition: the Communist Refoundation and the Italian Communists. The "Democrats of the Left" participated in the election for the Chamber of Deputies as part of an "Olive Tree" sub-coalition (31.3% of the vote). In the Senate election, however, in which it participated independently of its "Olive Tree" partners, it received 17.5% of the vote. In the election for the Chamber of Deputies, the Communist Refoundation received 5.8% of the vote and the Italian Communists, 2.3%. This means that Prodi’s coalition draws roughly 25% of its support from Communist or "post"-Communist voters.


It is also of interest to note that the "Union" coalition owes more than the entire margin of its victory in the Chamber of Deputies – as well indeed as its two seat margin in the Senate – to the support of the Südtiroler Volkspartei (South Tyrolean People’s Party – SVP): the self-styled party of the German-speaking minority of the South Tyrol/Alto Adige region, which, in its own words, regards the attachment of the territory to Italy after WWI as a historical "injustice". The margin of victory of the "Union" in the election for the Chamber of Deputies was roughly 25,000 votes. The Südtiroler Volkspartei contributed some 183,000 votes to its total. (See here for the official results for the Chamber of Deputies; and here for the Senate.)

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