Dini forges new group to contest Italian election


THE caretaker Prime Minister, Mr Lamberto Dini, and former magistrate, Mr Antonio Di Pietro, ended weeks of speculation about their political futures this weekend.

Mr Dini announced that he would contest the general election just minutes after Mr Di Pietro stated categorically that he would not.

Mr Dini's decision to run under his own banner at the head of yet another brand new political party has hardly clarified the complex electoral picture.

Mr Dini said that his party will, contest the election under its own flag and not within the "branches" of the centre left "Olive" coalition, led by Prof Romano Prodi and dominated by the ex communist Democratic Left (PDS).

Explaining his decision, Mr Dini said: "The new formation comes into being as autonomous and independent both of the (centre right) poll and the (centre left) Olive. For the time being we're assessing what sort of grouping comes out of my idea and later, on the basis of that, we'll decide about alliances".

The grouping being formed by Mr Dini seems sure to contain prominent members of his year long "technocrat" government, including the Labour Minister, Mr Tiziano Treu, the Finance Minister, Mr Augusto Fantozzi, and the Education Minister, Mr Giancarlo Lombardi.

As for its alleged "autonomy", the new force will clearly be "autonomous" in opposition to the centre right, which consistently tried to vote Mr Dini out of office last year, while its future "alliances" must inevitably mean an "electoral accord with the centre left forces which supported his government throughout the last year.

If Mr Dini's late entry to the electoral race has further complicated matters, at least ex magistrate Di Pietro's decision to withdraw has removed one element of confusion. It had been speculated that former "Tangentopoli" investigator Di Pietro, regularly polled as Italy's most popular man, might announce his candidature following the dismissal of extortion and abuse of public office charges against him in a Brescia court hearing last Thursday.