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POLITICS

Marini, a trade unionist who ‘kills with a silencer’

Franco Marini, 80, who has the support of Italy's main political blocs in the country's presidential election, is a pipe-smoking veteran trade unionist and former parliamentarian with formidable political skills and working-class roots.

Marini, a trade unionist who 'kills with a silencer'
File photo of Franco Marini. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

His political mentor once said that Marini "kills with a silencer". Born on April 9th, 1933 in San Pio delle Camere, a small village in the mountainous Abruzzo region, Marini lost his mother when he was just 11. He grew up in near-poverty with six brothers and a workman father.

"The best I could have hoped for was to go to school until I was 14," Marini said in one interview with left-wing weekly L'Espresso.

"But one day the literature teacher came to our house to tell my father I should go to high school. He had the intelligence to listen," he said.

A graduate in law, Marini did his military service in the Alpine military corps – an experience he has defined as "the most important" of his life.

Starting from the 1950s, he was a member of the Christian Democrat party – which dominated Italian politics for decades. He now represents the more Catholic wing of the Italian left.

"The first time I saw the sea was on a school trip with Catholic Action. And the first time I played football was at parish so how could I not be a Christian Democrat?" he once said.

Marini began his career in the trade unions at the age of 20.

He joined the CISL, the Catholic union confederation, where he eventually became secretary general in 1985.

At this time, his mentor Carlo Donat-Cattin, one of the founders of the CISL who served as a government minister in the 1960s and 1970s, said that Marini was a skilled political mover and shaker who "killed with a silencer".

Marini later said he had never understood whether the remark was meant as "a compliment or an insult". He has also been called "a cold-blooded animal" in the Italian press because of his extreme calm under stress.

His political career began relatively late, in 1991, when he became the labour minister in the last government of Giulio Andreotti – the most famous and controversial leader of the Christian Democrats.

In the 1990s, he led the Italian Popular Party. He was elected to the European Parliament in 1999, before joining the centre-left "La Margherita" party in 2001.

He was named speaker of the Senate in 2001 and in 2008, when Romano Prodi's centre-left government fell, he was called on by President Giorgio Napolitano to try and find a consensus between parties on urgent reforms for the country.

He failed to do so and Napolitano had to call early elections, which were won by Silvio Berlusconi.

Marini took part in the creation in 2007 of the Democratic Party, which is now the main centre-left grouping.

He has been married since 1961 with Luisa and the couple have a son.

Marini has said he loves to take a car up from Rome to his native village on weekends, which now has just 450 inhabitants.

"I arrive at around ten in the evening when there are just a few lights on," he said. "I walk for hours, hearing the sound of my footsteps. I re-discover the sights and sounds of my childhood".

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.

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