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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07ROME663 2007-04-02 09:49:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Embassy Rome
Cable title:  

ITALY: PRODI GOVERNMENT STANDS ON BERLUSCONI'S

Tags:   PGOV PREL IT 
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VZCZCXRO1474
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHRO #0663/01 0920949
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 020949Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY ROME
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7572
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHFL/AMCONSUL FLORENCE 2285
RUEHMIL/AMCONSUL MILAN 8514
RUEHNP/AMCONSUL NAPLES 2434
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ROME 000663 

SIPDIS

NOFORN
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/29/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL IT
SUBJECT: ITALY: PRODI GOVERNMENT STANDS ON BERLUSCONI'S
DIVIDED "HOUSE"

REF: A. ROME 0651

B. ROME 405

ROME 00000663 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: Ambassador Ronald P. Spogli for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

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SUMMARY
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1. (C/NF) PM Prodi remains weak despite his legislative
success in the March 27 Senate vote to extend funding by one
year for Italy's military missions abroad. His center-left
coalition failed to pass the decree independent of the votes
of Italy's Senators for Life. The Union of Christian
Democrats of the Center's (UDC) decision to support the
decree and the abstention by the remainder of the
center-right marks a schism in the opposition. Prodi's
government will continue to limp along, awaiting the next
political crisis. Disunity in the center-right and fear of
former PM Berlusconi's return are Prodi's best insurance for
remaining in power. END SUMMARY.

THE SENATE VOTE ON EXTENDING AFGHAN MISSION FUNDING


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





2. (U) March 27, the Italian Senate approved by a vote of 180
to 134 the government decree renewing funding through 2007
for military missions abroad, including Afghanistan (REF A).
PM Prodi's center-left (CL) majority, needing 158 votes to
pass the decree, mustered support from 155 of their 158
senators, plus those of four Senators For Life (SFL) and one
center-right (CR) senator. Casini's 20 center-right Union of
Christian Democrats of the Center (UDC) senators also voted
yes, boosting support to 180. In the remainder of the CR
"House of Freedom" coalition, former PM Berlusconi's Forza
Italia (FI), former FM Fini's Alleanza Nazionale (AN), and
Bossi's Lega Nord (LN) abstained. In the Senate, abstentions
count as votes against.

EXPLAINING THEIR VOTES IN ADVANCE


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





3. (C/NF) A series of Italian leaders from both the CR and
the CL called on Ambassador Spogli in the days prior to the
March 27 vote. UDC Party Leader Pierferdinando Casini
informed the Ambassador on March 23 that his 20 Senators
would support the government decree. Casini cited support
for Italy's troops and their missions consistent with
decisions taken while his party was in government as the
primary reasons for his decision. Casini continued that he
does not support the Prodi government and hopes that it will
soon fall on its own accord, but not over this issue. After
the meeting, Casini announced his decision to the press.



4. (C/NF) The Ambassador met with several hawks and moderates
from FI, including Gianni Letta, Marcello Pera and Renato
Schifani, who all indicated that Berlusconi had not taken a
decision on how to vote as late as 6:00 PM on March 26.
Counting the votes out loud, Schifani detailed how Casini's
decision to support the decree had already assured the
decree's passage and that no action taken by FI would
jeopardize that. Soon after the meeting with the Ambassador,
a Schifani aide called Poloff to say that Berlusconi had
decided to abstain from the vote.

AND THEN JUSTIFYING THEMSELVES AFTER THE FACT


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





5. (C/NF) PM Prodi lauded passage of the decree as a success
and made no comment of the fact that he failed to reach a
"political majority" of 158 votes within his coalition. The
CR, however, quickly pointed out that the decree passed only
with the help of SFL--and the UDC, with FI Spokesman Bonaiuti
calling for Prodi's resignation. Both Berlusconi and Fini
have come under fire for breaking with earlier decisions
taken while in government to support military missions abroad
for the sake of achieving tactical political goals. They have
both maintained that Prodi's approach to Afghanistan is
sufficiently different from their own to justify the change
of vote--citing the Mastrogiacomo affair and the effects of
caveats as primary differences.



6. (C/NF) After the vote, Casini went to great pains to
explain that he voted for the decree and not Prodi's
government and pointed out that the decree would have passed
without his support (which is true but ignores the effect his
announcement may have had on the voting intentions of other
senators). To emphasize his point, Casini called on

ROME 00000663 002.2 OF 002


President Napolitano to suggest Prodi should resign.
Napolitano deflected Casini's request by stating the March 27
vote was constitutionally sound.

GOVERNMENT STABILITY AFTER THE AFGHAN VOTE


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





7. (C/NF) REF B and previous asserted that two of Prodi's
strengths are: (1) the desire by the CL, including its
radicals, to stay in power; and (2) a concern by both the CL,
and a significant portion of the CR, that the collapse of
Prodi's government would bring Berlusconi back into power.
Former UDC Party Secretary Marco Follini told the Ambassador
March 26 that Casini's decision on the vote is a clear
indication that Casini wants a "new center-right, one without
Berlusconi," and that Casini is trying to force that outcome.
A FI strategist agreed, telling Poloff that the Italian
political system is blocked, with both Prodi and Berlusconi
serving as the cork bottling up both the CL and the CR. He
continued that current polls show that if elections were held
today, Berlusconi would inevitably return as PM. Since
Casini does not want to serve under Berlusconi again, Casini
is likely to passively sustain Prodi until Berlusconi decides
to leave the scene.



8. (C/NF) COMMENT: The Prodi government was born weak, but
has managed to stumble past a series of tough political
hurdles including approving the budget, the Vincenza base
expansion and Afghan mission funding. The recent crises
revolving around foreign policy issues have revealed that the
CR is also divided tactically. Many in Berlusconi's own
party believe Berlusconi needs to accept his future role is
as "kingmaker," not as king. Those same Berlusconi admirers,
however, doubt he is ready to step back just yet. Until
then, a weak Prodi faces a divided opposition. This helps
Prodi stay in power but without the strength for bold action,
especially on potentially controversial foreign policy
initiatives or difficult domestic reforms. Political
tensions are high, and the debate over gay marriages, pension
reform and electoral reform are shrill. Nevertheless, unlike
at any previous period of Prodi's current mandate, there is
no tough parliamentary vote on the calendar.
SPOGLI