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Romano Prodi - 1996-98, 2006-08

Romano ProdiRomano Prodi's nickname in the headlines - "The Professor" - reflects a deliberate campaign style of appearing eloquent and brilliant without actually saying anything. Romano Prodi was born in Scandiano (Reggio Emilia) in 1939. In 1969 he married Flavia Franzoni and has two sons, Giorgio and Antonio. Two granddaughters, Clare and Benedetta.

After a classical education at the high school Ariosto in Reggio Emilia, he studied at the Catholic University of Milan, where he graduated cum laude in Law in 1961, discussing a thesis on protectionism in the development of Italian industry with prof. Siro Lombardini. He has specialized universities of Milan and Bologna, at the London School of Economics, under the supervision of prof. Basil Yamey, Professor of Industrial Economics. È stato visiting professor presso la Harvard University e presso lo Stanford Research Institute. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard University and at the Stanford Research Institute. His academic career began at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Bologna, where he worked as an assistant (1963), associate professor (1966) and finally the ordinary (1971-1999) Industrial Organisation and Industrial Policy.

From 1974 to 1978 he was the chairman of the Il Mulino publishing house. In 1981 he founded Nomisma, one of Italy's leading economic research societies, and chaired its Scientific Committee until 1995. In 1981 he founded Nomisma, one of Italy's leading economic research societies, and ITS Scientific Committee chaired until 1995. He has written editorials for Italy's leading dailies such as Il Corriere della Sera and Il Sole 24 Ore. For many years he was the editor of L'Industria - Rivista di economia e politica industriale. For many years he was the editor of The Industry - Journal of economics and industrial policy. In 1992 he was the presenter of the television program on RAIUNO of " Il tempo delle scelte " - Decision Time, a series of six economics lessons.

From November 1978 to March 1979, Romano Prodi was the Minister of Industry. From November 1978 to March 1979, Romano Prodi was the Minister of Industry. From November 1982 to October 1989 he was the Chairman of “Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale” (IRI), Italy's largest holding company at that time. It was under his chairmanship that IRI underwent a process of radical recovery and reconversion, preparing the Group's companies for privatisation. In May 1993, Romano Prodi was once appointed to head IRI, where he completed the privatisation of its largest companies such as Credito Italiano and Banca Commerciale Italiana.

In the early 1990's, the parties that had formed 50 post-WWII revolving door governments imploded under the pressure of judicial "clean hands" corruption investigations. A new party (Forza Italia - FI), founded by businessman Silvio Berlusconi, emerged as the winner of May 1994 elections. FI was nominally center-right and drew much of its support from former DC voters. It was non-ideological, however, projecting its founder's image of modernizing, businesslike pragmatism. Berlusconi was forced to turn to the sometime secessionist Northern League (LN), led by maverick Umberto Bossi. The combination proved unstable, and Berlusconi's first attempt at governing Italy collapsed seven months after it was formed.

Left-of-center parties, largely untouched by the "clean hands" investigations, benefited from Berlusconi's failed 1994 venture. In February 1995 Prodi founded the "Ulivo" - "Olive tree" - coalition which appointed him as its candidate for the prime ministership in the April 1996 general election, in which the "Olive tree" coalition defeated the Center-Right coalition. In May 1996, the President of the Republic requested Romano Prodi to form the new government.

After successfully securing the vote of confidence of both Houses of Parliament in May 1996, Romano Prodi formed a government that united under one umbrella all major political formations to the left of center, with critical support in parliament from far-left Communist Renewal (RC). Prodi's government distinguished itself by exercising sufficient internal discipline (especially fiscal discipline) to qualify Italy for entry into the European Monetary Union (EMU). Prodi's government ended in October 1998 when RC withdrew its support. His was succeeded by three further center-left governments, which resembled DC predecessors in that they changed often and accomplished little. Voters rejected a repeat center-left option in May 2001 elections and gave Berlusconi's FI a solid endorsement.

In March 1999, the European Council elected Romano Prodi to serve as President of the European Commission in Brussels, confirmed in September 1999 by the vote of confidence of the European Parliament. During the five years of his Presidency, the European Union adopted some of the historic decisions of the European Union, such as the introduction of the Euro and the Enlargement to 25, together with an effective and powerful neighborhood policy.

Romano Prodi became the President of the "Unione" Center-Left Coalition in 2005, and confirmed his role as Center-Left party leader in a decisive victory in Italy's first ever coalition primaries on 16 October 2005. A surprisingly high 4.4 million voters gave Prodi 74.6 percent of the vote, versus 14.6 percent for his nearest rival, far-left Communist Renewal (RC) General Secretary Fausto Bertinotti. The unexpectedly wide margin of victory confirms Prodi as coalition leader and gave him a stronger hand against Bertinotti on the far left. Even so, the already fractioned Center-Left coalition showed signs of further strain in the face of electoral reform legislation that was expected to weaken coalitions and strengthen party leaders, not least Prime Minister Berlusconi.

Prodi, even as the confirmed leader of the Center-Right, would still have difficulty negotiating a coalition platform. The winner in the primaries would not assume absolute coalition leadership in the way that the winner of a U.S. party primary would. The process of negotiating a coalition platform would be complicated further as a result of electoral reform legislation that weakens the ties that bind coalitions together and strengthens party leaders. The new law effectively put less of a premium on pre-electoral coalition bargaining and more weight on post-election discussions, removing some of the leverage previously enjoyed by smaller coalition parties.

Romano Prodi presented the center-left Union coalition's 281-page governing program on 13 February 2006. As opposed to establishing a concrete program for the Union coalition should it win the April 9 national elections, the document was viewed by critics from both the right and the left as an index of the Union's internal disputes. The Eurocentric foreign policy section was relatively short, heavy on pacifist language, stressed multilateralism and "rebalancing" transatlantic relations, recognized the importance of the Middle East, called for a withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq in consultation with the Iraqi government, and anticipated a re-examination of the disposition of Italian military facilities. The language on Italian troop deployments to Iraq is sufficiently vague to please both the moderates and extremists within the Union. Long on analysis of Italy's economic and social ills, it was weak on prescriptions for change. Although the foreign policy portion was cause for concern, e.g., the near absence of reference to NATO, the document served mainly to underscore the fault lines within the center left itself.

Prodi headed the Olive tree list for the general election on 9-10 April 2006. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in the 15th Parliament in the Emilia-Romagna Constituency. Romano Prodi's center-left Union coalition, a successor to the Olive Tree, won a narrow victory over Berlusconi's Freedom House coalition. He was asked to form the government by the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and since 17 May 2006 he was Prime Minister of the 59th government of the Italian Republic. The Union coalition included the Democratic Party (born of the November 2007 fusion of the Democrats of the Left and the Daisy Party), UDEUR (Union of Democrats for Europe), Rose in the Fist (made up by Italian Social Democrats and Italian Radical Party), Communist Renewal, the Italian Communist Party, Italy of Values, and the Greens.

The Prodi government nearly fell in February 2007 due to dissatisfaction by members of far-left parties with Prodi's foreign policy. On the heels of the 06 February 2007 emergency meeting of center-left party leaders and government officials, Communist Renewal (RC) Party Secretary Franco Giordano warned dissident radical parliamentarians "we cannot allow the government to fall" because it would imply a return to government of former PM Berlusconi and Italy's involvement in Iraq. Romano Prodi won key confidence votes, but most analysts saw these votes as a potentially pyrrhic victories for a coalition united mostly by its opposition to former PM Silvio Berlusconi.

In January 2008, the Prodi government fell when small coalition partner UDEUR withdrew support. Italy witnessed the collapse of its 61st government in 63 years since the end of World War II. Italian Premier Romano Prodi won a confidence vote in the Lower House, in a vote that saw 326 MPs voting in favor and 275 against the confidence motion. But the center-left cabinet led by Prime Minister Romano Prodi was brought down after the ex-European Commission president lost a confidence vote in the Senate.

Prodi went down fighting and had few political friends left. The fragile and unpopular government he led for twenty months was hamstrung by internal contradictions, constantly on the verge of crisis and unable to stem the growing sense of pessimism and dislike of the political class among the Italian people.

Italy's Senate Speaker Franco Marini began talks aimed at seeking support for overhauling the country's election system, saying the current one failed again to deliver the country from its chronic woes of short-lived governments.

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Page last modified: 17-02-2014 18:09:35 ZULU