Courtesy Reuters

Italian Democracy Faces Another Test

WHEN Italy holds her major election this spring, the present parliament--the second in the history of the Italian Republic--will have lasted longer than anyone foresaw after the indecisive election of 1953. This is because of the responsible behavior of the democratic parties, and primarily, if I may say so, of the Christian Democrats, who had to carry the burden of an extremely difficult parliamentary setup which precluded the formation of any kind of broad, stable and effective majority. The election of this parliament, on June 7, 1953, produced a very small non-Communist preponderance, and when this was resolved into its component parts there was no way in which the democratic parties could alternate the assumption of responsibility; the whole burden lay upon the Christian Democrats, and they did not have a majority.

A long series of changes of cabinet leadership and would-be cabinet leadership ensued--the generous but ill-starred effort of De Gasperi, the withdrawal of Attilio Piccioni, the so-called holding operation of Pella, my own attempt to make up a single-party government, and finally the Scelba cabinet, based on an unstable coalition of the center parties. Scelba was followed by Segni, who functioned on the same basis as his predecessor. This state of affairs ended in May 1957, when the situation was resolved by Zoli, who self-sacrificingly undertook the difficult task of ruling the country with a minority cabinet.

The last five years, then, have been marked by much difficulty and tribulation, with seven governmental crises and eight attempts to form a cabinet, of which four were successful. But in spite of everything, these years have not been sterile. Italy has become a member of the United Nations, has reëntered Trieste and has signed various treaties of European collaboration. The Cassa del Mezzogiorno, the financial institution formed to further the economic and social development of the South, has been broadened in aim and reinforced with larger means; funds for the relief of depressed areas in the central and northern provinces have been nearly doubled; INA-Casa plan, which aims at providing housing for the very poor, has been extended, and steps to eliminate unsanitary dwellings have been approved. Unemployment has decreased. Budget liabilities have been diminished from year to year. Economic progress has been continuous, as proved by the steady increase in the national income; this now surpasses what were supposed to be optimistic estimates of the Vanoni Plan.

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