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New centrist movement formed

Ex-minister and Rome mayor Rutelli claims PD 'gone left'

11 November, 23:39
New centrist movement formed

ROME - Former minister and ex-Rome mayor Francesco Rutelli on Wednesday founded a new centrist movement after splitting with Italy's main centre-left party, the Democratic Party (PD) The small Alliance for Italy movement is made up of a handful of unaffiliated moderates and former PD members who are unhappy with recently elected leader Pierluigi Bersani, a former Communist.

Rutelli, 55, led the centrist Catholic wing of the PD and claims Bersani's election has tilted the PD back towards a kind of socialism, allegedly making it less attractive to moderate voters.

"The PD has gone left," he said, announcing that the Alliance will hold its first convention on December 11-12 and would "very soon" work with the centrist Catholic UDC opposition party.

Reactions to Rutelli's move were mixed.

Gianfranco Rotondi, 'government programme' minister and leader of a small Christian Democrat party allied to centre-right Premier Silvio Berlusconi, hailed it as "an important page in the history of Italian politics".

But Nicola Latorre, PD Senate deputy caucus leader, said "this move looks like a mistake to me".

Latorre said the traditions Rutelli was aiming to appeal to, liberal Christian Democracy and a New Labourish post-socialism, were still represented in the PD.

Rutelli and his followers had been hasty in quitting the PD, he argued. " "I would rule out the possibility of any leftward drift," Latorre said.

Rutelli has been accused of making too many moves across the Italian political landscape. A former libertarian Radical, he then became a prominent Green activist before gaining a high profile as Rome mayor from 1993 to 2001.

He was culture minister in the last centre-left government, from 2006 to 2008.

In 2002, already unhappy with the left's socialist heritage and having become a publicly committed Catholic, Rutelli formed his own more moderate party, the Daisy. A social democratic party with some roots in Christian Democracy, the Daisy merged with the PD in 2007.

Most of the ex-Daisy members have stayed in the PD.

As well as serving in the Senate, Rutelli is head of the parliamentary national security committee.

He is married to a well-known print, radio and TV journalist, Barbara Palombelli, who has worked for both conservative and left-leaning papers and state broadcaster RAI She is currently employed by Berlusconi's media group Mediaset.

The couple have four children. photo: Rutelli

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