La Rete

(The Network)
   Apolitical movement of pronounced progressive sympathies, La Rete provided a political vehicle for the social and civic activism of many thousands of mostly young people who were already involved in voluntary, church, and local associations against scourges such as the mafia, unemployment, urban degradation, and political corruption.
   La Rete was officially founded in January 1991. Its first leader— or, more accurately, “national coordinator”—was the former mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, who had left the Democrazia Cristiana/Christian Democracy Party (DC) the previous year after the party hierarchy insisted that he should govern in conjunction with the party’s national allies and should abandon the heterogeneous local coalition of progressives supporting his administration. Palermo has ever since been the heart of La Rete’s support, but the new movement took root in other cities where there were strong traditions of urban activism and Christian socialism, notably Milan, Turin, and the Trentino. From the very beginning, La Rete attempted to renounce all the traditional forms of party organization, allowing the maximum possible local autonomy for the small self-financed cells of citizens who constitute its membership.
   In the 1992 general elections, La Rete obtained over 700,000 votes—2 percent of the electorate—despite the fact that it did not run candidates throughout the country, but only in areas where it had some semblance of local organization.
   La Rete failed to fulfill its promise, however. Anxious not to be wiped out by a change in the electoral laws, it reneged on its earlier commitment to abolish the proportional system of parliamentary representation during the referendum on the question in April 1993. In the June 1993 local elections, the party headed broad leftist coalitions in Turin, Milan, and Catania. Despite the favorable circumstances (the elections were held shortly after Giulio Andreotti and other DC leaders were accused of links to the mafia), all three of its candidates lost, a defeat that was only partially remedied by Orlando’s triumphant reelection—by a 75 percent plurality—as mayor of Palermo in a second round of local elections in November 1993. La Rete fought the 1994 election as part of the progressive coalition headed by the Partito Democratico della Sinistra/Democratic Party of the Left (PDS). It was unexpectedly overtaken in Sicily by Forza Italia and did not advance beyond the 2 percent of the national vote it had obtained in 1992. In 1999, La Rete merged with the Democratici per Prodi, and most of its former activists are now to be found in Democrazia e Liberta/Democracy and Liberty (DL).

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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