865.00/2–2246: Telegram

The Ambassador in Italy (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

us urgent

933. I called on De Gasperi yesterday evening at his request and learned from him that the coalition govt has not yet found a common basis for the political questions connected with the holding of the elections for the Constituent Assembly. According to the Prime Minister the thesis of the American experts,97 based on the law of June 4, 1944,98 that the Constituent Assembly does not have powers of govt and that during the period of the Assembly the regime of the Lt. General must continue, is strongly contested by the elements of the Left, and even moderate elements find that the above-mentioned law is full of contradictions and that its literal application exposes Italian political life to the dangers of internal conflicts. On the one hand, it does not seem possible that the Constituent Assembly in such unsettled times and for 7 or 8 months could abstain from legislative activity. On the other hand, it would not appear feasible for the Lt. General to nominate the govt if the Assembly should have a republican character. In order to assure a pacific evolution, according to De Gasperi, the present [Page 880] discussions in the Cabinet have therefore the object of laying down in advance some democratic procedure.

A compromise is being sought along the following lines according to the Prime Minister:

To concede to the Assembly the election of the President of the Council who will nominate his Ministers;
To maintain nevertheless the Lt. General for the promulgation of laws;
To leave to the people the decision of the question of a Monarchy or Republic by means of plebiscite or referendum.

The plebiscite would have to be held simultaneously with the elections for the deputies (of the Assembly) or during the first 4 months of the Assembly session, that is, after the fundamental questions of the constitution have been considered (rights and obligations of citizens, economic and social principles, basic questions of organization such as bicameral structure, regional decentralization, etc.)

The form would follow that of the French referendum, that is, two questions would be put to the people:

“Are you for the Monarchy or the Republic?”
“Do you agree that the regime during the constituent period be that proposed in the attached outline?”

In this outline the principles mentioned above would be set forth. In the present negotiations, if agreement on the pre-constituent referendum mentioned above cannot be reached it is hoped at least to introduce an interconstituent referendum, that is, during the period of the Constituent Assembly.

As a result of the above De Gasperi has put two questions to me:

Do the American experts deem that direct consultation of the people (referendum) is more democratic procedure than that authorized by the law of 1944 and that it (referendum) would fit into the general policy of the Allies?
Furthermore, do they deem that maintaining the Lt. General until the final decisions, even with reduced powers, is sufficient proof of juridical continuity?

An affirmative reply to these questions would reinforce the position of the moderate parties and would facilitate the compromise which they seek. It must be received within the next few days because the draft plan must be submitted to the Consulate in order to be able to set the elections for the end of May, in view of the provision that they must be announced 70 days before the day of elections, De Gasperi concluded.

  1. The “thesis of the American experts” refers to the memorandum entitled “Powers of the Italian Government versus the Constituent Assembly” which was sent to Rome in instruction 812 of November 16, 1945, not printed. The essence of the argument was embodied in the Department’s telegram 1899 of October 22, 1945, to Rome, Foreign Relations, 1945, vol. iv, p. 989.
  2. The reference here should be to Decree Law No. 151 of June 25, 1944, Gazzetta Ufficiale, July 8, 1944.