Robert P. Imbelli May 10, 2006 - 1:32pm
In my last post, o Theophiloi, I hazarded the guess that the next President of the Republic of Italy, would be the former head of the Italian Communist Party, Massimo D'Alema.
Right party, wrong person.
On the fourth ballot this morning (requiring only a simple majority, in contrast to the two-thirds needed on the first three ballots), the eighty year old former Communist, Giorgio Napolitano, was chosen as Italy's eleventh president.
Napolitano (who is, indeed, from Naples) entered the Party at the age of twenty, and has had a distinguished career as politician and statesman. He is credited with bringing the Communist Party into the European Socialist mainstream and was, for a time, considered "heretical" by the ideologues among the Italian Communists. He is reputed to have been a post-Communist, before there was a post-Communism.
However, it is worrisome that despite evident personal regard, his candidacy failed to garner significant votes from the Right in this badly-divided nation. On the other hand the Left, which won the recent parliamentary elections by less than thirty thousand votes, put Napolitano forward with a "take him or leave him" attitude. This left no room for compromise (not an Italian strong point to begin with) or even much conversation. Hence the opportunity to offer a candidate who would enjoy overwhelming support from both blocs was lost.
Who blocked D'Alema's path to the Quirinale (the President's residence, former palace of the popes)? Dark speculation in the land of Machiavelli is a passion second only to soccer. Some contend that D'Alema was just too Communist for the Right to swallow, risking civil strife. Others suggest that Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister in pectore, perceived him to be a possible threat to his own power, and pulled the plug. (Excuse the out of control alliteration.)
Perhaps John Allen or Amy Welborn can cast light on the matter, but it won't be easy. In comparison, papal conclaves seem relatively simple and straighforward affairs. Whispers in the Loggia take note.
About the Author
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.