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03ROME2067 2003-05-13 14:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Rome
Cable title:  

ITALY'S UPCOMING LOCAL ELECTIONS: POLITICS AS

Tags:   PGOV IT 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ROME 002067 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV IT IT PGOV
SUBJECT: ITALY'S UPCOMING LOCAL ELECTIONS: POLITICS AS
USUAL

REF: A) ROME 1971 B) ROME 294 C) 02 ROME 0011

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION.
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 ROME 02067 01 OF 02 131444Z



1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: UPCOMING LOCAL ELECTIONS
INVOLVING A THIRD OF ITALY'S ELECTORATE ARE UNLIKELY TO
HAVE MUCH IMPACT ON NATIONAL POLITICS, THOUGH A CASUAL
OBSERVER WOULD NEVER KNOW IT FROM THE PITCHED MEDIA BATTLES
BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION. POLITICIANS ARE MADLY
SPINNING THE PROJECTED RESULTS, AS THEY WILL THE FINAL
RESULTS. THE BERLUSCONI GOVERNMENT WOULD WELCOME A STRONG
SHOWING TO REAFFIRM ONGOING PUBLIC SUPPORT AS THE PRIME
MINISTER'S LEGAL PROBLEMS REMAIN FRONT AND CENTER (REF A).
WE SUSPECT FEW ITALIANS WILL HAVE NATIONAL ISSUES (OR THE
WAR ON IRAQ) ON THEIR MINDS AS THEY VOTE FOR THEIR LOCAL
MAYOR OR COUNCIL MEMBER. THE ITALIAN MEDIA HAS USED
OCCASIONAL SQUABBLES WITHIN COALITIONS (ESPECIALLY THE
CENTER-RIGHT GOVERNMENT) AS THEY NEGOTIATE WHEN, WHO AND
WHERE TO RUN SINGLE CANDIDATES TO HIGHLIGHT POLITICAL
DISARRAY. BUT IN TRUTH THE LEAD-UP TO THESE NOT-SO-
TERRIBLY SIGNIFICANT ELECTIONS HAS BEEN NOT SO TERRIBLY
SIGNIFICANT. THE RESULTS SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS INDICATIVE
OF THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT'S STAYING POWER. END SUMMARY
AND COMMENT.



2. (U) BETWEEN MAY 18 AND JUNE 23, ITALIAN ELECTORS WILL
BE CALLED TO VOTE IN A SERIES OF ELECTIONS FOR LOCAL (CITY,
PROVINCE, AND REGION) OFFICIALS, AS WELL AS IN A NATIONAL
REFERENDUM.
-- ON MAY 25-26, ALMOST THIRTEEN MILLION ITALIANS WILL
VOTE FOR 12 PROVINCIAL COUNCILS AND 495 CITY COUNCILS. RUN-
OFF ELECTIONS WILL BE JUNE 8-9. (NOTE: ITALIAN ELECTIONS
NORMALLY ARE HELD FROM SUNDAY MORNING TO THE FOLLOWING
MONDAY AT MID-DAY, WITH POLLS CLOSING OVERNIGHT.)
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 ROME 02067 01 OF 02 131444Z
-- A REFERENDUM VOTE ON THE FAMOUS "ARTICLE 18" EMPLOYMENT
STATUTE GOVERNING FIRING OF EMPLOYEES WILL BE HELD ON JUNE
15 (REF B AND SEPTEL).
-- A SUPPLEMENTAL PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION FOR ONE OF THE
DISTRICTS IN THE LAZIO (ROME) REGION WILL BE HELD JUNE 22-
23 TO FILL A VACANT SENATE SEAT.



3. (U) ITALY'S FIVE AUTONOMOUS REGIONS HAVE THE RIGHT TO
CHOOSE THEIR OWN ELECTION DATES, AND THREE INDEED SET
THEIRS SEPARATELY. SARDINIA AND SICILY CHOSE TO KEEP THEIR
CITY AND PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS ON THE NATIONALLY-SELECTED
MAY 25-26 DATES. (NOTE: ITALY'S FIVE AUTONOMOUS REGIONS
ARE VALLE D'AOSTA, TRENTINO-ALTO ADIGE, AND FRIULI-VENEZIA
GIULIA, ALL IN THE NORTH, AND THE ISLANDS OF SARDINIA AND
SICILY. EACH REGION HAS A DIFFERENT STATUTE GRANTING IT
CERTAIN RIGHTS, INTER ALIA THAT OF IMPLEMENTING ITS OWN
ELECTION LAWS.) ITALY'S 15 NON-AUTONOMOUS REGIONS ELECT
THEIR PRESIDENTS CONCURRENTLY (THE NEXT ELECTIONS WILL BE
IN 2005), AND THOSE ELECTIONS ARE HOTLY CONTESTED BY
NATIONAL POLITICAL PARTIES, ATTRACT CONSIDERABLE ATTENTION,
AND REFLECT THE NATIONAL MOOD AND INTERESTS. THE
SEPARATELY-HELD ELECTIONS FOR THE AUTONOMOUS REGIONS,
HOWEVER, ARE LESS SIGNIFICANT NATIONALLY.
-- ON MAY 18, ELECTIONS WILL BE HELD IN TRENTINO-ALTO
ADIGE FOR THREE CITY COUNCILS;
-- JUNE 8 WAS SELECTED BY VALLE D'AOSTA FOR ELECTIONS FOR
A NEW REGIONAL PRESIDENT AND ONE CITY COUNCIL;
-- JUNE 8-9, RESIDENTS OF FRIULI-VENEZIA GIULIA WILL CHOOSE
A NEW REGIONAL PRESIDENT AND SEVEN CITY COUNCILS.



4. (SBU) LOCAL ELECTIONS GENERALLY NEITHER REFLECT NOR
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 ROME 02067 01 OF 02 131444Z
SIGNIFICANTLY IMPACT NATIONAL POLITICS, SINCE ITALIAN
VOTERS AND CANDIDATES -- LIKE THEIR AMERICAN COUNTERPARTS
-- TEND TO FOCUS ON LOCAL PERSONALITIES AND ISSUES WHEN
VOTING FOR THEIR MAYORS AND CITY OR PROVINCIAL COUNCILS.
THIS SPRING'S LOCAL ELECTIONS ARE SOMEWHAT LESS SIGNIFICANT
NATIONALLY THAN MOST, SINCE NO MAJOR CITIES ARE HOLDING
ELECTIONS. POLITICIANS, HOWEVER, CAN BE EXPECTED TO SEEK
TO PORTRAY RESULTS AS A REFERENDUM ON BERLUSCONI AND HIS
POLICIES. IF THE CENTER-RIGHT WINS OVERALL, ITS MEMBERS
WILL ANNOUNCE THAT THE PUBLIC HAS AGAIN SHOWN ITS SUPPORT
FOR THE PRIME MINISTER. IF THE REVERSE OCCURS, THE CENTER-
LEFT OPPOSITION WILL TRUMPET THE PUBLIC'S REJECTION OF THE
GOI AND ITS LEADER. IN EITHER CASE, WE SUSPECT, AND MOST
OF OUR CONTACTS CONCUR, THAT MOST VOTERS WILL THINK LITTLE,
IF AT ALL, ABOUT BERLUSCONI'S LEGAL PROBLEMS, ECONOMIC
REFORM, GOVERNMENT RESTRUCTURING, OR THE WAR IN IRAQ WHEN
CASTING THEIR VOTE FOR CITY MAYOR.



5. (SBU) THIS TENDENCY, COUPLED WITH A TENDENCY FOR THE
CENTER-LEFT TO BE SOMEWHAT STRONGER IN LOCAL ELECTIONS DUE
TO BETTER ORGANIZATION AND CANDIDATES, MAY BE EXACTLY WHAT
BERLUSCONI IS SEEKING TO COMBAT WITH SOME OF HIS RECENT,
MORE INFLAMMATORY RHETORIC. BY RAISING THE SPECTER OF A
POTENTIAL "COMMUNIST VICTORY" AND PORTRAYING HIMSELF AS A

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ5257

PAGE 01 ROME 02067 02 OF 02 131445Z
ACTION EUR-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AID-00 CIAE-00 INL-00 DODE-00 SRPP-00
DS-00 UTED-00 VC-00 H-01 TEDE-00 INR-00 LAB-01
L-00 VCE-00 AC-01 NSAE-00 NSCE-00 OMB-01 OPIC-01
PA-00 PM-00 PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00 SCT-00 SP-00
TEST-00 TRSE-00 USIE-00 IIP-00 PMB-00 DSCC-00 PRM-00
DRL-01 G-00 NFAT-00 SAS-00 /006W


--------------------------

644928 131509Z /38
R 131444Z MAY 03
FM AMEMBASSY ROME
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 9833
INFO EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
AMCONSUL MILAN
AMCONSUL NAPLES
AMCONSUL FLORENCE

UNCLAS SECTION 02 OF 02 ROME 002067

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV IT IT PGOV
SUBJECT: ITALY'S UPCOMING LOCAL ELECTIONS: POLITICS AS
USUAL

VICTIM OF LEFTIST PERSECUTION (COMMENT: WHICH HE TRULY
BELIEVES, IN ANY EVENT), HE MAY BE SEEKING TO "NATIONALIZE"
LOCAL ELECTIONS AND THUS URGE AT LEAST SOME OF THE VOTERS
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 ROME 02067 02 OF 02 131445Z
WHO ELECTED HIM IN 2001 TO THE POLLS TO CAST CENTER-RIGHT
VOTES. A LOUDER STRATEGY RISKS NOISIER POLITICAL
REPERCUSSIONS IN THE EVENT OF A POOR CENTER-RIGHT SHOWING,
HOWEVER. PROMINENT COLUMNIST STEFANO FOLLI NOTED IN
LEADING CENTRIST DAILY "CORRIERE DELLA SERA" ON MAY 12 THAT
"A BAD SHOW BY BERLUSCONI'S COALITION ON MAY 25...COULD
TURN INTO SOMETHING BIGGER THAN A (MID-TERM) SETBACK..."
FOLLI ALSO HIGHLIGHTS THE ABSOLUTE IMPERATIVE, AND THUS THE
VIRTUAL GUARANTEE, THAT THE GOVERNING COALITION REMAIN
UNITED THROUGH, AND BEYOND, THESE ELECTIONS.



6. (U) THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE JUNE 15 REFERENDUM
REGARDING CHANGES TO LABOR STATUTE ARTICLE 18 WILL BE FULLY
ANALYZED SEPTEL. THIS REFERENDUM WILL BE THE FIRST
OCCASION FOR ITALIAN CITIZENS TO VOTE FROM ABROAD. IN THE
PAST, ITALIANS LIVING ABROAD HAD TO TRAVEL TO ITALY TO
VOTE, BUT IN DECEMBER 2001 A LAW WAS PASSED TO AMEND THE
CONSTITUTION, MAKING IT POSSIBLE FOR ITALIAN CITIZENS TO
VOTE FROM ABROAD (REF C) IN NATIONAL-LEVEL ELECTIONS.



7. (SBU) THE SENATE SUPPLEMENTAL ELECTION IN LAZIO WILL
REPLACE CENTER-LEFT SENATOR SEVERINO LAVAGNINI WHO DIED
RECENTLY. MOST LIKELY THE SEAT WILL GO TO THE CENTER-LEFT
AGAIN. LAVAGNINI WON THE 2001 ELECTION BY A HANDFUL OF
VOTES WHEN THE CENTER-LEFT OLIVE TREE (ULIVO) COALITION AND
COMMUNIST RENEWAL (RC) RAN SEPARATE CANDIDATES. AS THIS IS
A SINGLE SEAT ELECTION, RC MAY DECIDE TO SUPPORT THE ULIVO
CANDIDATE, GIVING THE CENTER-LEFT A BETTER CHANCE TO WIN.
THIS ELECTION WILL NOT CHANGE THE BALANCE OF POWER IN THE
SENATE, IN ANY EVENT.
SEMBLER
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 ROME 02067 02 OF 02 131445Z

UNCLASSIFIED

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2003ROME02067 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED