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from issue no. 01 - 2008

That April 18

None of us survivors of that April 18 1948 can forget the tension of an election day that could mark the strengthening of the democratic regime, but also witness a very dangerous international stumble

Giulio Andreotti

Giulio Andreotti with Alcide De Gasperi during a government sitting in 1948

Giulio Andreotti with Alcide De Gasperi during a government sitting in 1948

None of us survivors of that April 18 1948 can forget the tension of an election day that could mark the strengthening of the democratic regime, but also witness a very dangerous international stumble.
The Church, on the precise urging of Pius XII, had ranged itself openly through the activism of the Civic Committees, organized by Luigi Gedda. It was not an encroachment, because in the countries of the East, where the Communists had won, slaughterous Soviet domination had followed.
To Togliatti and Nenni, who denied the existence of the danger in Italy, it was easy to answer that the Russian dominion had not been wanted and that their fellow leftists in the satellite countries had been ruthlessly suppressed.
Afterwards the diplomatic correspondences became public and one learned that the Russian embassy in Rome thought victory for the “comrades” was a sure thing, stressing the advantage of the Togliatti-Nenni axis.
Polling was formidably high. Our young activists had organized transport for the sick and invalid; while the representatives of our candidates made sure that the bulletins could not be altered.
Two years earlier, in the elections for the Constituent Assembly I had come out among the winners, but preceded by more famous Christian Democrat candidates or ones with more backing (Paolo Bonomi for example of the farmers’ association). In May 1947 De Gasperi had appointed me Undersecretary to the Presidency and now I was number two on the list, second obviously to the president.
During the campaign I had come across liking and warmth, but I never thought that I would gather so many votes at the urns. I received 169,476 preferential votes and began a parliamentary career that saw me uninterruptedly in the Chamber up to June 1991 when Cossiga named me life senator. And... life goes on. Last 14 January I celebrated my birthday three times: in the morning in the embassy in Cairo, in the afternoon in flight and in the evening home with Livia, children and grandchildren.
To understand the atmosphere of that 1948, I remember that some families from Milan and Rome had gone straight to Switzerland after voting and awaited the results of the election there, ready to stay if the Popular Front won.
Our success – apart from the highly organized deployment mentioned – was due to the electoral program, strongly reformist (beginning with a bold social platform in the countryside and the Fund for Southern Italy).
We kept our promises and the year witnessed agrarian reform and measures for the development of Southern Italy and the poor areas of the Center-north.
It was an illustrious Communist, Giorgio Amendola, who composed the finest eulogy of De Gasperi: “Italy will not have again”, he said, “a Prime Minister capable within a few years of introducing reform law and getting it approved and applied”.
Unfortunately those who had suffered expropriations reacted and we were penalized at the following election (1953).
De Gasperi, who had been holding the reins of government since 1945, gaining much international respect, was defeated, after a particularly busy election campaign, although his health was under threat. He died in August the following year in his own Trentino and was transported to Rome among genuine scenes of mass emotion, to be buried in the Basilica of Saint Lorenzo, where the bombs that dropped in July 1943 had caused emblematic damage.
Time has not cancelled the memory of the “President of Reconstruction”. Even in recent days, at a conference on him in Genoa, I saw that people are not forgetful or unaware.
As for elections this 2008, there is no longer a sharp international divide and there is a risk of flying low. On the one hand the two-party system is evoked as the way to clarify the situation, but it is not easy – intending no lack of respect towards the two figures of undoubted worth – to inure oneself to the idea of a referendum for or against Silvio Berlusconi (nor even for or against Walter Veltroni).
Palmiro Togliatti

Palmiro Togliatti

For the rest, it is to be hoped that on all sides there will be clear programs with deadlines for realization and precise indications of the relative financial consequences.
The platform of foreign policy no longer has the dramatic import of the past, but clarity in certain lines, both Atlantic and European, is of no small importance.
Clarity also in relations with the whole range of Mediterranean countries will have its weight (and here arises the matter of relations with the Muslims and of inter-religious dialogue in general).
Space is being given in the election publicity already circulating to the cost of living and the adequacy of income. Health is also a widespread concern, increased by the considerable regional disparity throughout the country.
Recurrent crime (always then re-echoed in written and radio-television reports) requires deeper analysis and the identification of more effective remedies.
Nor should the protests that have been going on for some time about the problems and defects of rubbish disposal in the city, especially (but not only) in Naples and its outskirts, be underestimated.
I want to be consistent with the criticism made in the past of ministers who want to link their name to reforms; I must however record that not only in the sphere of public education there are many policies to be improved with courage.
It is now set down in law that Italian residents abroad will also vote in the elections, and send their representatives to both Chambers.
2008 is an Olympic year. Let me express the hope, a"> Italiano Español Français Deutsch Português