The fragile unity of the Italian left has been dealt a blow with the formation of a new party by the former mayor of Rome Francesco Rutelli.But it may also offer the left and centre of Italian politics a credible figurehead. Rutelli has led both the Radical and Green parties in the past, and has only left the Democrat party because of new leader leader Pierluigi Bersani: “The Democrat Party has gone left. I respect it, but we have created, with a lot of persons from every corner of Italy, a movement able to unite the democratic, reformist, popular and liberal forces of this country. In order to make this country better,” said Rutelli at the party launch. Bersani is a former communist and he has not been able to stop several Democrat big hitters leaving to launch Rutelli’s “Alliance for Italy” alongside him. Former Christian Democrat Pierferdinando Casini also lost a UDC heavy hitter to the new “Alliance for Italy”: “He’s the first relevant personality of the center-left, a former mayor of Rome and Italian vice-president, who recognizes that the process of the Democrat Party has failed.” Casini is getting closer to Silvio Berlusconi but he has said he might take the UDC into an alliance with Rutelli to form an alternative “big centre” party to Berlusconi’s People of Freedom. The next Italian elections are due in 2012.