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Bestselling book on Rome Italy



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Postcards from Rome

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Italian Politics
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Italian Politics

The Next Prime Minister?

One of Italy's freshest, most exciting political faces these days is Francesco Rutelli, Rome's mayor. First elected seven years ago on a platform that promised efficiency combined with a concern for the environment, Mayor Rutelli was resoundingly reelected in 1997. He loves his job, but nothing would make him happier than to not finish the balance of his term, which runs through the fall of 2001. The reason? He has been selected by the center-left coalition to be Italy's Prime Minister should the coalition emerge victorious in next year's parliamentary elections. This tall, good-looking, intelligent man, with a perfect command of English (he read a passage from As the Romans Do at the commencement ceremony of the American University of Rome last spring), faces a tough challenge. His opponent is the formidable media magnate and ex-Prime Minister (for six months in 1994) Silvio Berlusconi, who owns three TV stations and holds the title as the richest man in Italy. Berlusconi has been campaigning for the job since April, 1995, when his center-right coalition narrowly lost the last elections to the center-left. Polls now favor him, but there is at least six months to go before the elections, and Italian voters are no longer loyal as they once were to a given political party -- of which there are many -- but will wait and see which candidate offers the best hope for a country uncertainly plunging into modernity. Rutelli was a surprise choice, but his youth, energy, and good looks might be enough to make voters at least listen to what he has to offer. It promises to be a long, difficult campaign, made even more so by the intricate pitfalls of Italian politics, where today's friends are tomorrow's enemies -- and vice versa. Stay tuned.


Alan Epstein

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