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  Oscar Luigi Scalfaro
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ContributorL'illusionniste 
Last EditedL'illusionniste  Sep 09, 2012 07:45am
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CategoryNews
AuthorDonald Sassoon
MediaNewspaper - Guardian
News DateSunday, January 29, 2012 03:00:00 PM UTC0:0
DescriptionOscar Luigi Scalfaro, who has died aged 93, was Italy's head of state from 1992 to 1999 and one of the great survivors of Italian politics. He was elected president of the republic by a parliament dominated – as had been the case for the previous 30 years – by a coalition of Christian Democrats, socialists and smaller parties of the centre. By the 1994 election, all these parties had disappeared and their leading politicians been prosecuted by magistrates in the most celebrated corruption trials (the so-called Tangentopoli affair) in the history of this scandal-studded country.

A new governing coalition e'merged led by Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon turned politician, and his Forza Italia party. Seven months later this government, too, had bitten the dust and was replaced by a temporary administration supported by all the parties. Finally, after the election of 1996, the third in four years, the premiership was entrusted to the Catholic technocrat Romano Prodi, supported by the former communists of the Democratic Party of the Left. Almost alone, Scalfaro survived all of this, floating over the debris of the old First Republic to emerge as the supreme guarantor of the Second Republic and the living embodiment of political continuity.

By 1999, when his presidency came to an end, he no longer even tried to hide his profound distrust of Berlusconi, poised to rule for the successive decade. As a life senator (as is the norm for former presidents) he dedicated the rest of his life to the defence of the Italian constitution, often in alliance with centre-left politicians, against all attempts by the right to modify it. The left began to regard him as a father of the nation. Yet, until the advent of Berlusconi, Scalfaro had been a deeply conservative politician firmly opposed to anything that smacked of progressive politics.

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