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Italy

Yearbook 2008

2008 ItalyItaly. Italy's left-center government, led by Prime Minister Romano Prodi, fell on January 24 after losing a vote in the Senate. The government's case was preceded by Justice Minister Clemente Mastella being forced to resign in the middle of the month as a result of corruption suspicions against him and his wife. Mastella's party, the Catholic middle party UDEUR, left the nine-party coalition shortly thereafter, which meant that the Prodi government lost its majority in the Senate. At that stage, Prodi decided to test the government's support in the vote of confidence in both parliament's chambers. The government survived the vote in the lower house, but fell to the Senate.

According to Countryaah reports, mid-right opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi demanded that a new election be held, but President Giorgio Napolitano instead asked the Senate President to form a temporary unity government. The proposal was rejected by Berlusconi, and Napolitano then chose to dissolve Parliament and announce new elections until April 13 and 14. In opinion polls, the opposition then led the government side by 10-15 per cent.

2008 Italy

In the recent election, Berlusconi's election alliance won the Freedom House by a good margin over the left-center coalition Democratic Party, now led by Walter Veltroni. Freedom House won by 46 percent of the vote against 37 percent for the Democratic Party. As a result, Berlusconi camp received 344 of the 630 seats in the lower house against 246 seats for Veltroni. In the Senate, the distribution of seats was 174-132. For the first time since the Second World War, I's Communist parties did not get seats in parliament since they were under the four-percent block. The right-wing populist Northern League (Lega Nord) more than doubled its mandate to a total of 85 since receiving 8 percent of the vote. The turnout was just over 80 percent.

In his victory, Berlusconi pledged to cooperate with the opposition to bring life to the country's slumbering economy. He also pledged to rescue the bankrupt airline Alitalia.

Another promise from the new prime minister was to resolve the waste management crisis that was rapidly exacerbating in Naples. Since December 2007, the Naples were plagued by a conflict over the city's garbage. The Neapolitan Mafia, Camorran, checked all garbage disposal contracts and therefore prevented the construction of new much-needed garbage facilities. As a result, about 250,000 tonnes of waste was strewn across the city after a while. Some Neapolitans began to burn the garbage, while protesters clashed with riot police. The military was called in to clear garbage from schools so the children could go there. At the end of January, when the rotting garbage mountains became a health risk, the EU ordered the Naples authorities to clean up or pay a fine.

In May, Berlusconi formed a new government consisting of 21 members. The Minister of Finance became Giulio Tremonti and the post of Foreign Minister went to Franco Frattini. Both had held the same post in previous Berlusconi governments.

The prime minister chose to hold his first government meeting on May 21 in Naples, where he decided that ten new garbage facilities would be built and guarded by the military.

The same month, the government tightened the penalty for illegal immigration to up to four years in prison. Persons sentenced to more than two years in prison for this crime would be expelled. The decisions were based on the idea that increased illegal immigration had led to higher crime rates. The opposition accused the government of spreading xenophobia and increasing ethnic tensions. A proposal by Minister of the Interior Roberto Maroni in July to take fingerprints on all Roma in the country with a view to combating crime and identifying illegal immigrants was condemned by both the EU and the Council of Europe and the UN Children's Fund UNICEF and Amnesty International. Several reports came during the year about attacks on Roma neighborhoods. In August, the government ordered around 3,000 soldiers in the largest cities to monitor refugee facilities for a six-month period,

More than 30,000 immigrants entered Italy illegally during the year. This was 75 percent more than in 2007. Sixty percent were expelled immediately upon being discovered.

In August, Prime Minister Berlusconi apologized to Libya for the damage that Italy caused to the African country during the colonial era. As compensation, the two countries signed an investment agreement worth five billion US dollars.

That same month, Alitalia's management filed for bankruptcy.

A riot broke out in September among immigrants in Castelvolturno outside Naples after six Africans were shot dead, likely by Camorran. The shootings led the government to send 500 soldiers to the area to fight the mafia, which according to Interior Minister Maroni responded by "declaring war on the state".

In the wake of the international financial crisis, the Italian economy went into recession in November, following negative growth for two consecutive quarters. Like many other governments in Europe, Italy launched an economic rescue package of EUR 80 billion in the same month. This included, among other things, tax relief for poor families, assistance with home loans and investments in public projects, such as roads and other infrastructure.

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