Olive Tree Coalition

   This name was chosen by the broad coalition of a dozen center-left parties assembled, under the leadership of Romano Prodi, in the spring of 1995. The Olive Tree Coalition governed Italy between the general elections of April 1996, when it obtained 284 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and the government crisis of autumn 1998, when Prodi’s cabinet was brought down by the contrary vote of the Partito di Rifondazione Comunista/Communist Refoundation (PRC), which had previously provided the Coalition with a slender parliamentary majority. Despite the difficulties caused by the Olive Tree Coalition’s heterogeneous character—conservatives, ex-communists, socialists, environmentalists, neoliberals, and Catholic centrists were all represented within the government—it should be said that Prodi’s cabinet scored some useful policy triumphs. Laws proposing the devolution of power to local tiers of government were enacted in 1997, an overdue reform of the education system was begun, and public aid was directed toward economic blackspots in southern Italy. Most important, public finances were brought under control by a prolonged period of austerity, and Italy, as a consequence, was allowed to participate in using the single European currency, the euro, from 1999 onward. Prodi’s difficulties began once entry to the euro had been attaained.
   The Ulivo has been somewhat revived since 2004 by the Italian center-left’s decision to choose Prodi as their prime ministerial candidate in the elections of 2006. Today it refers to the formal political alliance between the Democratici di Sinistra/Democrats of the Left (DS) and Democratici e Liberta (a coalition based on the former Partito Popolare Italiano/Italian Popular Party (PPI) and the much smaller “Democrats for Prodi”). Led by Prodi, the Olive Tree Coalition allied itself with the PRC and with several other parties of the center and far left to win the April 2006 elections, albeit by the narrowest of margins. The idea that the Ulivo should be transformed into a single “Democrat” party has been much discussed but as yet has not been acted upon.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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