Showing posts with label Republic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Republic. Show all posts

23 July 2017

Sergio Mattarella – President of Italy

Anti-Mafia former Christian Democrat is Italy's 12th President

Sergio Mattarella, the 12th President of the Italian Republic
Sergio Mattarella, the 12th President of
the Italian Republic
The first Sicilian to become President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, was born on this day in 1941 in Palermo.

Mattarella went into politics after the assassination of his brother, Piersanti, by the Mafia in 1980. His brother had been killed while holding the position of President of the Regional Government of Sicily.

Their father, Bernardo Mattarella, was an anti-Fascist, who with other prominent Catholic politicians helped found the Christian Democrat (Democrazia Cristiana) party. They dominated the Italian political scene for almost 50 years, with Bernardo serving as a minister several times. Piersanti Mattarella was also a Christian Democrat politician.

Sergio Mattarella graduated in Law from the Sapienza University of Rome and  a few years later started teaching parliamentary procedure at the University of Palermo.

His parliamentary career began in 1983 when he was elected a member of the Chamber of Deputies in a left-leaning faction of the DC that had supported an agreement with the Italian Communist Party led by Enrico Berlinguer. The following year he was entrusted with cleansing the Sicilian faction of the party from Mafia control by DC Secretary Ciriaco De Mita.

Mattarella's brother, Piersanti, was
killed by the Mafia
In 1985 Mattarella helped a young lawyer, Leoluc Orlando, who had worked alongside his brother, Piersanti, to become Mayor of Palermo.

Mattarella was appointed Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and subsequently Minister of Education.

He stood down from his post, along with other ministers, in 1990 when parliament passed an act liberalising the media sector in Italy, which he saw as a favour to media magnate Silvio Berlusconi.

Mattarella  became director of the Christian Democrat newspaper, Il Popolo, and in 1994 when DC was dissolved following Tangentopoli, he helped form the Italian People’s party.

Mattarella was one of the first supporters of the economist, Romano Prodi, at the head of the centre left coalition known as The Olive Tree.

Two years later he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence in the Government of Massimo D’Alema, the leader of the Democrats of the Left.

Mattarella with his predecessor Giorgio Napoletano
Mattarella with his predecessor Giorgio Napoletano
In 2007 Mattarella was one of the founders of the Democratic Party, a merger of left-wing and centre parties

He was elected to be a Judge of the Constitutional Court in 2011 and served for nearly four years.

His wife, Marisa Chiazzese, the mother of his three children, died in 2012.

Mattarella was elected President of the Italian Republic in 2015, replacing Giorgio Napoletano who had served for nine years.

In December 2016 the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi announced his resignation following the rejection of his proposals in the 2016 Italian constitutional referendum and Matterella appointed the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paolo Gentiloni, to be the new head of Government.

The Church of San Cataldo in Palermo with its spherical red domes
The Church of San Cataldo in Palermo with its
spherical red domes
Travel tip:

Palermo, where Mattarella was born and where he taught at the University, is the capital of Sicily, on the northern coast of the island, with a wealth of beautiful architecture, revealing both northern European and Arabian influences. The Church of San Cataldo in Piazza Bellini has a bell tower typical of those in northern France and three spherical, red domes on the roof of Arabic style.

The Courtyard at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome
The Courtyard at the Palazzo Quirinale in Rome
Travel tip:

President Sergio Mattarella lives in Palazzo Quirinale in Rome at one end of Piazza del Quirinale. This was the summer palace of the popes until 1870 when it became the palace of the Kings of the newly unified Italy. Following the abdication of the last King, it became the official residence of the President of the Republic in 1947.

2 June 2016

Festa della Repubblica

Parades and parties celebrate the birth of the republic

Photo of military parade in Rome
A military parade is staged in Rome to mark the Festa
della Repubblica, which Italy celebrates on June 2 each year
Italy is today celebrating the 70th anniversary of becoming a republic on this day in 1946. Each year the country has a national holiday to commem- orate the result of the referendum which sent the male descendants of the House of Savoy into exile.

Following the Second World War and the fall of Fascism, the Italian people were called to the polls to vote on how they wanted to be governed. The result signalled the end for the monarchy.

A grand military parade takes place in Rome, attended by the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, and the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi.

Many cities throughout Italy hold their own celebrations as the day is an official bank holiday.

In April 1944, the reigning King, Victor Emmanuel III, had relinquished many of his powers to his heir, Crown Prince Umberto.

Photo of Umberto II
Umberto II, Italy's final King
He finally abdicated in 1946 and Umberto II ascended the throne. It had been thought that Umberto II and his Queen would be more acceptable to the people. But Umberto II has gone down in history as Il Re di Maggio, the King of May, as he reigned for only 40 days before being sent into exile.

Umberto II accepted the results of the referendum magnanimously and his family remained in exile until 2002, when his son, Victor Emmanuel, entered Italy for a short visit to the Pope. 

Travel tip:

When in Rome, a focal point for celebrating Republic Day is the Quirinale. The impressive Palazzo del Quirinale, at one end of Piazza del Quirinale, was the summer palace of the popes until 1870 when it became the palace of the Kings of the newly unified Italy. Since 1947 it has been the official residence of the President of the Republic of Italy.

Travel tip:

Military parades in Rome often start at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Piazza Venezia and travel along Via dei Fori Imperiali, past the Roman Forum, on the way to the Colosseum. 


3 April 2016

Alcide De Gasperi - prime minister who rebuilt Italy

Christian Democrat founder was jailed by Mussolini

Alcide de Gasperi founded the Italian Christian Democrat Party
Alcide De Gasperi
Born on this day in 1881, Alcide De Gasperi was the Italian prime minister who founded the Christian Democrat party and led the rebuilding of the country after World War II.

An opponent of Benito Mussolini who survived being locked up by the Fascist dictator, he was the head of eight consecutive governments between 1945 and 1953, a record for longevity in post-War Italian politics.

Although Silvio Berlusconi has spent more time in office - nine years and 53 days compared with De Gasperi's seven years and 238 days - the media tycoon's time in power was fragmented, whereas De Gasperi served continuously until his resignation in 1953.

As prime minister, De Gasperi was largely responsible for Italy's post-War economic salvation and for helping to hold the line between East and West as the Soviet Union established its border on Italy's doorstep.

During his premiership, Italy became a republic, signed a peace treaty with the Allies, joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and became an ally of the United States, who in turn provided considerable help in reviving the shattered Italian economy.

De Gasperi took advantage of America's nervousness about the rise of the Soviet-funded Italian Communist Party, negotiating a peace treaty much more favourable to Italy than might have been expected and securing immediate financial help towards rebuilding Italy's damaged infrastructure. In return he promised to mobilise opposition to the Communists.

America then supported De Gasperi's Christian Democrats in the crucial 1948 election not only through financial contributions, some above board but others less so, but also through propaganda, with Italian-Americans encouraged to urge their relatives at home to vote against the Communists.

De Gasperi's tomb is in the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome
The tomb of Alcide de Gasperi in the
Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura
(Photo: Panairjdde CC BY-SA 3.0)
De Gasperi is also credited with introducing social reforms to help working Italians enjoy the benefits of better housing, improved pensions and unemployment insurance.  A pro-Europe politician, he saw that Italy became a member of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), which evolved into the European Union (EU).

The Christian Democrat Party was formed after the fall of Benito Mussolini's Fascists, with De Gasperi the driving force.

Born in Pieve Tesino, a town in the South Tyrol area of Trentino-Alto Adige today but then part of the Austria-Hungary, he was a member of the Austrian parliament for six years before his home region became part of Italy under the terms of the settlement following World War I.

Continuing his political career, he was among the founders of the Italian People's Party (PPI) in 1919 and served as a deputy in the Italian parliament between 1921 and 1924, the period that coincided with the rise of Fascism.

At first, De Gasperi was keen for the PPI to be part of Mussolini's first government but this support wavered as the Fascists began to introduce major constitutional changes and attempted to subdue their opponents with violence and intimidation.

When the socialist politician, Giacomo Matteoti, who had spoken out against the violence, was murdered, De Gasperi himself began to campaign against the Fascists.  In 1927 he was arrested and sentenced to four years in jail.

In poor health, he was released after 18 months following an appeal from the Catholic Church.  In serious financial difficulties, he found work as a cataloguer in the Vatican Library and remained there for 14 years.

For most of this time, he kept a low profile, but after Mussolini's grip on power began to loosen, he resumed his political activity by forming another party, Democrazia Christiana, drawing on the ideology of the PPI, and publishing his Ideas for Reconstruction, after which he was appointed the party's first general secretary.

De Gasperi died in 1954, a year after he resigned as prime minister following his party's failure to secure a majority in the 1953 elections and only two months after stepping down as leader.  He had returned to Trentino but political office in Italy at the time did not bring significant financial reward and it is said that he died with not enough money even to pay for a dignified burial.

Fortunately, the Italian government felt his achievements deserved to be recognised with a state funeral.  His remains are buried at the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome.

The Fountain of Neptune in Piazza Duomo in
Trento (Pic: Matteo Ianeselli CC BY-SA 4.0)
Travel tip:

Trentino-Alto Adige is a region bordering Switzerland and Austria that includes part of the Dolomites, a section of the Italian Alps notable for its sawtooth limestone peaks. Trento, the region's capital, has some notable Renaissance palaces and the region as a whole is dotted with medieval castles.

Travel tip:

The Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura can be found in Piazzale San Lorenzo, close to the University of Rome and accessible by following the Via Tiburtina to the north-west of the main Roma Termini railway station.  There are bus services along the route.  The Basilica suffered bomb damage during World War II and had to be rebuilt.  The original was constructed in the fourth century, was rebuilt 200 years later and added to at various times subsequently.