Italy’s centre-left ruling coalition will welcome a new party leader later today, amid hopes it will shore up faltering support. The two biggest political parties in the coalition have merged into the Democratic Party and, although five candidates are running to be its new head, the favourite is the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni. He’s seen as the right man to take on the resurgent threat from Silvio Berlusconi, and win, at the next election.
His rivals for the role include Italy’s Minister for Family Policy Rosy Bindi and cabinet undersecretary Enrico Letta, who warns against building the new party up too much. “We musn’t see this new Democratic party as an alternative to the government otherwise it will cause many problems.”
Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s popularity ratings are at a very low ebb. With just 28 per cent support he’s 10 points behind the opposition. There were nine parties in his fragile coalition, encompassing Communists to Christian democrats. Now there are eight. Even centre-left supporters are expressing disappointment with the coalition, and frustration with the infighting.
The right-wing opposition, scenting blood, were out in their thousands again this weekend in the Italian capital, believing Romano Prodi’s days are numbered.