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Power of Italy’s Far-right Diminished in New Government

The appointment of Lamberto Dini as Italy’s new prime minister has left the country’s neo-fascists with much-diminished influence in Italy’s new government.

Nonetheless, given its strength in Parliament and in local governments, the political right still has to be monitored closely, observers here said.

Dini, an internationally known economist who was treasury minister in the outgoing government, was named prime minister-designate Jan. 13 by President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.

He replaces billionaire businessman Silvio Berlusconi, who resigned in December after serving seven months in office.

Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition included five ministers from the neo-fascist- led National Alliance Party, marking the first time neo-fascists had entered Italian government since World War II.

The National Alliance won more than 13 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections last March, making it the third largest party in the country.

Dini, though close to Berlusconi, is considered a technocrat not formally allied to any political party.

He named his new government last week, and as he had promised, it was composed of other technocrats chosen for their expertise rather than for their political affiliation.

Dini was scheduled to present his government – Italy’s 54th since World War II — to Parliament this week.

Franco Pavoncello, a political scientist and vice president of the Rome Jewish community, said he felt the appointment of the conservative Dini as prime minister dealt a blow to the left in Italy.

But, he said, it also spelled a major defeat for the National Alliance, whose members had assumed many lower-ranking positions in government ministries in addition to their holding five Cabinet seats under Berlusconi.

“The [National Alliance] was practically colonizing the ministries,” Pavoncello said.

“That’s the biggest defeat for the [Alliance] they can’t do this anymore,” he said.

He said the political climate, particularly where the right wing was concerned, remained unclear and required careful monitoring. Pavoncello noted that the National Alliance would hold its congress this week, adding that it would represent a “crucial moment” for the right.

At that congress, the Italian Social Movement (MSI) the neo-fascist core party of the National Alliance – is supposed to be dissolved. At the same time, the National Alliance will declare a more mainstream right-wing platform.

National Alliance leader Gianfranco Fini has been pushing for this move.

But hardline MSI members have made it known that they might not back these changes and that they may even split off to form their own party.

The MSI was formed after World War II by followers of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Until Berlusconi’s government, the party had been on the fringes of political power, with no possibility of entering government.

The more moderate National Alliance members, Pavoncello said, “are in bad shape.

“I don’t know if the party will make all the changes [toward moderation] they want,” he added.

Now that the far-right is out of power, Pavoncello said, it will have to be watched closely to see if moderate positions adopted while the National Alliance was part of the government, became more hardline.

“What will the situation be now that everything is back to `normal?’ ” he asked.

“How will the right react? They don’t have to act nicel!y now. They will have a freer hand. The respite might be over.”

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