Democratici di Sinistra

Democrats of the Left (DS)
   This party was formed in February 1998 from the fusion of the Partito Democratico della Sinistra/Democratic Party of the Left (PDS) with several small parties of the center-left. The largest of these were the Federazione Laburista (Labour Federation), the Comunisti Unitari (Unitarian Communists), and the Cristiani Sociali (Social Christians). The party’s electoral symbol was changed to reflect its new composition. The PDS’s oak tree symbol was retained, but the hammer and sickle symbol at its roots was replaced with the red rose of the socialist movement. The party is a member of the Socialist International and of the Socialist group in the European Parliament.
   The DS’s first secretary was Massimo D’Alema, who became prime minister in October 1998. He was replaced as party secretary by Walter Veltroni. Since November 2001, the party secretary has been Piero Fassino, a Piedmontese born in 1949 who served as minister for commerce and minister of justice between 1998 and 2001. Since its foundation, the party’s electoral tally has remained fairly stable at around 17 percent of the vote in national political contests (around six million electors). This makes the party second only to Forza Italia in terms of domestic political support, but it has proved too little for the DS to hope to dominate the center-left as a whole. The DS is part of the Unione/Union coalition headed by Romano Prodi that won the April 2006 elections and contributes no fewer than nine senior ministers to the government. The party is characterized by very lively internal democracy; there are a great many correnti (factions) within the party whose opinions run the full range from liberals (in the European, promarket sense of the word) through to old-fashioned socialists and communists. As a result, the party is not always united. Fassino won the leadership in 2001 only after a hard battle and the contrary votes of nearly 40 percent of the party members. Several of the principal factions are opposed to any attempt to merge the party with other center-left parties to form a broader “Democrat” party incorporating the liberals and Christian Democrats of Democrazia e Liberta/Democracy and Liberty (DL). The DS’s leadership insists, however, that unity of the center-left is its goal.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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