"With his dapper appearance and urbane manner, 66-year-old Fausto Bertinotti does not look like the harbinger of "misery, terror and death" that Silvio Berlusconi has accused Italy's communist leader of being. The head of Italy's biggest hard-left party, Communist Refoundation, often called a "cashmere communist" because of his taste for expensive clothes, Bertinotti is set to play a key role in Romano Prodi's new government. Bertinotti has said he would not become a minister himself, but as his party secured third place in Prodi's centre-left election victory, it will demand significant spoils after more than 2 million Italians gave him their vote.
"...Confounding the Prime Minister's constant warnings of "baby-eating" communists, Bertinotti has taken a left-wing but hardly extreme stance, calling for lower tax on labour and higher taxes on capital gains - a policy broadly adopted by Prodi's "Union" coalition. "There's nothing wrong with being rich, as long as you pay taxes," he has said.
"...It is not just Berlusconi voters who fear Italy's communists. Many moderates in the centre-left are concerned Bertinotti could hold Prodi to ransom unless he gets his way. He was responsible for sinking Prodi's first government when, in 1998, he turned against him in a confidence vote due to disagreements over labour policy.
"...New lawmakers who may enter parliament under Refoundation's banner include Vladimir Luxuria, a transvestite who aims to be Europe's first "trans-gender" lawmaker, Francesco Caruso, a leader of the anti-globalisation movement, and Haidi Giuliani, mother of a demonstrator shot dead by police at G8 protests in Genoa in 2001."
I love the way commentators make out that the PRC are fair weather friends, as if leaving the government was just some sort of wrecking technique. The Prodi government was pursuing free market policies that the PRC totally opposed and so they could not continue to support the government. The PRC was absolutely consistent and principled - and it is a testiment to their willingness to work with others that they are giving it another go.
But that doesn't mean the coalition is going to be easy sailing - if Prodi isn't willing to give significant concessions to his coalition partners he wont deserve to stay... Italian election results in detail