THE CENTRE-left Italian government has been thrown into crisis after prime minister Massimo D'Alema resigned last week. D'Alema, a former Communist turned Blairite, threw in the towel after the governing "Olive Tree" coalition he heads was trounced in regional elections.
It was beaten by a right wing coalition headed by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, the far right National Alliance and the Northern League separatist anti-immigrant party. The result shows the cost of the Blairite politics embraced by sections of the centre-left in Europe. D'Alema joined forces with Tony Blair last month before the Lisbon summit of EU leaders to call for "Third Way" economic policies. During the regional election campaign Berlusconi and his allies played the race card against immigrants.
D'Alema's response was to move to the right and copy them. This only encouraged the right to go further on the attack. But election figures show that the right won not because its support went up substantially, but because the left's supporters refused to turn out and vote. The far left Communist Refoundation group saw its vote drop by nearly half to around 5 percent. Its own supporters punished it for being too close to D'Alema's government.