In 1992-94 Italy was widely held to have been reborn. The parties that had long ruled - latterly misruled - the country were all but wiped out, after their corruption had been exposed by a fearless group of magistrates, in an election under a new and, so it was felt, more functional system, even if the government that emerged from the polls was a surprise to many who celebrated the end of the old regime. The country could now make a fresh start, in its way comparable to that of 1945. Today the Second Republic, as it has come to be called, is 15 years old, equivalent to the span of time stretching from Liberation to the arrival of the centre-left in the First Republic. An era has elapsed. What is there to show for it? For its promoters, who commanded an overwhelming consensus in the media and public opinion in the early 1990s, Italy required a comprehensive political reconstruction, to give the country government worthy of a contemporary Western society. Probity, stability, bipolarity were the watchwords. Public life was to be cleansed of the corruptions of the old order. Cabinets were not to fall every few months. Alternation of two moderate parties - or at worst, coalitions - in office, one inclining to the right and the other to the left, would be the norm. Once the political system was overhauled along these lines, the reforms needed to modernise Italian society, bringing it up to standards taken for granted elsewhere in the Atlantic community, could at long last be enacted.
LRB 26 February 2009 | PDF Download