Walter Veltroni’s supporters see him as the future of Italy’s left-wing. Elected mayor of Rome in 2001 with 53 percent of the vote, he won a second mandate five years later with an unprecedented 61 percent. A former journalist and successful novelist, Walter Veltroni embodies the evolution of the Italian left-wing over the last two decades.
Veltroni joined Italy’s Youth Communist Federation at the age of 15, and was a communist member of parliament by the age of 32. Along with current Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema, Veltroni was one of the architects of the new Democratic Party. He was a key player in the revival of the Olive Tree, the centre-left coalition of Prime Minister Romano Prodi.
After the Olive Tree’s general election victory in 1996, Veltroni became Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Minister for two years, until the fall of the first Prodi administration. In 2000, he became First Secretary of the Democrats of the Left – a further step upwards on the political ladder for a man who said he had no intention of being a politician all his life.
Moderate and pragmatic, Walter Veltroni has been dubbed the Italian Bill Clinton – a leader capable of rising above the endemic squabbling of Italian politics. “The battle we should lead, as Olof Palme said, is not against wealth, but against poverty. Let’s always remember that,” he said. A fight many on the left hope Veltroni will now live up to.