Di Rudini, Antonio Starabba

(1839–1908)
   A Sicilian conservative, Rudini came to national attention as mayor of Palermo. In 1869, he was briefly minister of the interior under Luigi Menabrea. The long sequence of governments of the Constitutional Left then kept him out of office until February 1891, when Rudini—who had been the undisputed leader of the parliamentary right since 1886— became both prime minister and minister for foreign affairs. His first government was marked by several important events, notably the foundation of the Partito Socialista Italiano/Italian Socialist Party (PSI) and the publication of the encyclical Rerum Novarum. His government was brought down in April 1892 by parliamentary opposition to his attempts to balance the budget coming from both the military right of Luigi Girolamo Pelloux and the parliamentary left of Giovanni Giolitti.
   Rudini returned to power in March 1896. His new administration was criticized by the noted economist Vifredo Pareto as a “government of gentlemen” who were too well bred to stamp out the corruption revealed during the Banca Romana scandal, but, in fairness, Rudini could also boast some significant achievements. Military spending was capped, the war in Ethiopia was brought to an end in October 1896, and civil government replaced military rule in Eritrea. These generally sensible policies were not rewarded at the polls. After the elections of March 1897, Rudini had to rely on the radicals to stay in office.
   Rudini’s second spell as prime minister came to an end as a consequence of the 1898 bread riots, which his government suppressed with severity. At least 80 citizens were killed by troops commanded by General Bava Baccaris in Milan. Thousands of people, including several PSI deputies, were arbitrarily arrested and condemned to jail by military tribunals, and emergency laws limiting civil liberties were passed. In June 1898, Rudini asked that these emergency provisions be made into permanent laws and, when Parliament denied this request, appealed to the king to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies and institute a state of siege by royal decree. This near coup was too extreme even for a conservative court, and Rudini was obliged to resign. He died in Rome in 1908.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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