A Technocrat Helps Italy Take Breather From Windy Politics

PRIME Minister Lamberto Dini may finally bring a ``cease-fire'' to Italy's volatile politic atmosphere.

A vote of confidence for his government yesterday in the Chamber of Deputies - 302 in favor, 39 against, and 270 abstentions - should be large enough to ensure a similar victory in the Italian Senate next week, and the survival of Mr. Dini's government for at least a few months.

Dini's expertise as an economist who made a career at the central Bank of Italy and the International Monetary Fund may help bring a spell of reform to the flagging Italian economy. Under former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government the budget deficit increased and values of the Italian lira and common stocks decreased.

Dini's nonconfrontational style also contrasts sharply with that of Mr. Berlusconi and his allies.

Dini won the vote of confidence thanks to the abstention of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party and of the National Alliance. Dini's support comes especially from the Democratic Party of the Left, the centrist Italian Popular Party, and the regional Northern League - the party that brought down the Berlusconi government by withdrawing from the governing coalition in December.

AT first, Berlusconi said that Forza Italia and its National Alliance partner would vote against Dini because his government of nonparliamentary experts did not represent the will of the electorate, which had voted last March for Berlusconi and his allies. And Berlusconi has for weeks been calling for early parliamentary elections in June.

Subsequently, after heated polemics, Berlusconi turned 180 degrees and said that he and his allies could vote for the Dini government if Dini pledged to reach his limited goals well before June. Dini has outlined a four-point program of raising needed money for government spending, reforming the pension system, establishing conditions of equal political-party access to the broadcast media, and reforming the regional electoral system.

When Dini, in his speech to Parliament before the confidence measure, did not give Berlusconi the assurances he sought, Berlusconi announced that Forza Italia and the National Alliance would abstain.

Berlusconi imposed the abstention on his party, a majority of whose deputies wanted to vote in favor of the Dini government.

The ex-prime minister left the chamber when his former coalition partner, parliamentary deputy Umberto Bossi, got up to speak on Tuesday evening. Mr. Bossi, the leader of the Northern League, bore down on Berlusconi like a Mack truck. Let's never forget, he said, that Berlusconi belonged to the now-outlawed subversive Propaganda Due (P-2) masonic lodge. By bringing down Berlusconi, he said, the League had saved Italian democracy from sedition and dictatorship by neofascists.

Giorgio Napolitano, the former speaker of the Chamber of Deputies and a widely respected moderate within the Democratic Party of the Left, said afterward, ``Well done, Bossi! What happened [under Berlusconi's government] was a shame.''

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