353. Memorandum From the President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs (Scowcroft) to President Ford1
- The New Italian Government
Italy’s 37th postwar government assumed power on November 23 under the leadership of veteran Christian Democratic politician Aldo Moro. The minority government of Christian Democrats and Republicans was formed only after six weeks of fruitless negotiations to restore the old center-left majority coalition. Based on our initial assessment, the new government’s program will not differ significantly from that of its predecessor. The government should survive until next spring’s nationwide local elections, when it should become clear whether there has been a significant popular shift to the Communists and Socialists in Italy.
Premier Moro’s new center-left cabinet which has the assured parliamentary support of both socialist parties, is a stop-gap government apparently designed to achieve two main objectives:
—to safeguard the center-left alliance, which is the only viable combination possible in the present parliament, and
—to mark time until next spring’s nationwide local elections which may provide the catalyst or the pretext for the return to the cabinet of one or both of the two socialist parties.
Composition: There are no major surprises either in the makeup or orientation of the new cabinet. As expected the Christian Democrats retained the lion’s share of the ministries (20 of 25), including the key [Typeset Page 1078] posts of Foreign Affairs (outgoing Premier Rumor), Defense, Interior, and Treasury.
The tiny Republican Party, which has only 15 of the 630 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, got the largest number of ministries that it has ever received in any postwar cabinet, including the Vice-Premiership and four other lesser posts.
The large number of ministerial chairs awarded to the Republicans was undoubtedly the price that the Christian Democrats had to pay in order to assure themselves the support of the Social Democrats. The latter, who were responsible both for the fall of Rumor’s Government in October and for Fanfani’s failure to put together another four-party center-left coalition, had opposed the formation under Moro of an all-Christian Democratic minority cabinet; Moro had already been promised the parliamentary support of the Socialists and the Republicans. Such a government would have had a parliamentary majority even without the Social Democrats, but Christian Democratic Conservatives joined the Social Democrats in opposing it and thereby made it necessary to bring the Republicans into the cabinet. That face-saving device made it possible for the Social Democrats to backtrack and assured their parliamentary support.
Prospects: The new government’s program is not likely to differ significantly from that of the outgoing cabinet. The austere measures imposed by Rumor will be continued indefinitely into the future, although there may be selective loosening of some of them in order to assuage trade union pressures and avoid politically dangerous increases in unemployment.
Next spring’s nationwide local elections, involving as they do the near totality of the electorate, may provide Italian politicians with a better clue to the mood of the voters. Recent limited electoral samplings indicate a significant shift to the Socialists and Communists which appears to be the most pronounced of the past 20 years. A confirmation of this trend in a major electoral test such as the upcoming spring elections would leave the Christian Democrats with even less flexibility in choosing their coalition partners than they now have and would force them to stick to their alliance with the Socialists and the other two minor center-left parties.
Summary: Scowcroft discussed the new Italian government.
Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 8, Italy (1). Confidential. Sent for information. A stamped notation on the memorandum indicates the President saw it, and Ford initialed the memorandum.↩