Italian Parliament elects right-wing speakers for Senate, Chamber of Deputies

April 17, 1994|By New York Times News Service

ROME -- Bruised but victorious after his first battle with Parliament, Silvio Berlusconi secured the speakers' posts in both houses of Parliament yesterday for his hand-picked candidates, paving the way for his own nomination as prime minister in the next few days.

After two days of fractious bargaining, the Chamber of Deputies elected as its speaker Irene Pivetti, a 31-year-old freshman legislator from the separatist Northern League, while the Senate chose a 49-year-old economist, Carlo Scognamiglio, from Mr. Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

"I'm happy about the strength and compactness of the majority, and the choice of something new," Mr. Berlusconi said of the results.

Parliament convened Friday for the first time since Italy's March elections, in which Mr. Berlusconi's party and its right-wing allies won enough seats to form the next coalition government.

Parliament's choice of Ms. Pivetti and Mr. Scognamiglio -- both backed by the rightist alliance that links Forza Italia, the Northern League and the neo-Fascist National Alliance -- was a distinct break with Italian political traditions.

Under Italy's traditional system of power-sharing, the posts of speaker in the two houses of Parliament have often gone to the opposition, which for all the postwar period has been led by the powerful Communist Party and its successor, the Democratic Party of the Left. Ms. Pivetti succeeds Giorgio Napoletano, a Communist deputy elected in 1992.

Opposition leaders could not hide their bitterness.

"We've been pushed to this point by the line of the right, which tenaciously sought a partisan solution," said Claudio Petruccioli, senator from the Democratic Left.

The selection of Mr. Scognamiglio, a sometime government adviser who studied at the London School of Economics and is rector of the Luiss business school in Rome, reflects Mr. Berlusconi's efforts not to break entirely with Italy's powerful business establishment.

A former member of the pro-business Liberal Party, Mr. Scognamiglio first entered the Senate in 1992. His former wife is a niece of Gianni Agnelli, the Fiat automobile baron; his present companion is the daughter of Leopoldo Pirelli, the owner of Italy's Pirelli rubber corporation.

But if Mr. Scognamiglio represents continuity, the choice of Ms. Pivetti, a writer and former book publisher from Milan, reflects the deep changes in store.

Ms. Pivetti is a close associate of the mercurial Northern League leader, Umberto Bossi, and like Mr. Bossi, made her mark, and has drawn criticism, for her extreme outspokenness.

A Roman Catholic of a fundamentalist strain, Ms. Pivetti has come under fire in the Italian press since she emerged as a candidate for past remarks that many take to be intolerant of faiths other than Catholicism, notably Judaism and Islam.

Ms. Pivetti rejects the charge of anti-Semitism, although she has not contested the remarks attributed to her.

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