The Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, is preparing to take up the reins of Italy’s new Democratic Party after an enormous public turnout at the ballot box. The vote almost certainly marks him out as the successor to Prime Minister Romano Prodi, and the man who will lead the centre-left into the next election. Some commentators – notably the daily paper Corriere della Sera – believe Veltroni’s victory risks making people think Prodi’s leadership is over.
Veltroni countered, saying nothing could help the government more than a big success, and being the main force to support the administration. He also pointed out that he and Prodi have been among the people who have pushed hardest to create this new party. Their relationship, he said, is “bomb-proof”.
More than three million Italians voted – that is a million more than was expected. The merger of the two biggest groups in Prodi’s fragile coalition was intended to make the Prime Minister’s life easier in a government riven with inter-party in-fighting. Prodi and Veltroni hope such a consolidation will end the chronic instability in Italian politics, fuelled by an electoral system which favours smaller parties.