|President of the European Commission|
16 September 1999 – 30 October 2004
|Vice President||Neil Kinnock|
|Preceded by||Manuel Marín|
|Succeeded by||José Manuel Barroso|
|52nd Prime Minister of Italy|
17 May 2006 – 8 May 2008
|Preceded by||Silvio Berlusconi|
|Succeeded by||Silvio Berlusconi|
17 May 1996 – 21 October 1998
|President||Oscar Luigi Scalfaro|
|Preceded by||Lamberto Dini|
|Succeeded by||Massimo D'Alema|
|President of the Democratic Party|
14 October 2007 – 16 April 2008
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Rosy Bindi|
|President of the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction|
20 May 1993 – 27 July 1994
|Preceded by||Franco Nobili|
|Succeeded by||Michele Tedeschi|
3 November 1982 – 29 October 1989
|Preceded by||Pietro Sette|
|Succeeded by||Franco Nobili|
|Minister of Industry, Commerce and Manufacturing|
25 November 1978 – 20 March 1979
|Prime Minister||Giulio Andreotti|
|Preceded by||Carlo Donat-Cattin|
|Succeeded by||Franco Nicolazzi|
|Born||Romano Antonio Prodi
9 August 1939
|Political party||Christian Democracy
Italian People's Party
(1996–1999; 2002–2007; 2013– )
|The Olive Tree
|Spouse(s)||Flavia Franzoni (m. 1969)|
|This article is part of a series about
Romano Prodi OMRI (Italian pronunciation: [roˈmaːno ˈprɔːdi] ( listen); born 9 August 1939) is an Italian politician who served as the 10th President of the European Commission from 1999 to 2004. He served twice as Prime Minister of Italy - from 17 May 1996 to 21 October 1998, and from 17 May 2006 to 8 May 2008. He is considered the founder of the Italian centre-left and one of the most prominent and iconic figures of the so-called Second Republic. Prodi is often nicknamed Il Professore ("The Professor"), due to his academic career.
A former professor of economics and international advisor to Goldman Sachs, Prodi ran in 1996 as lead candidate of The Olive Tree coalition, winning the general election and serving as Prime Minister of Italy until 1998. Following the victory of his coalition The Union over the House of Freedoms led by Silvio Berlusconi in the April 2006 Italian elections, Prodi took power again. On 24 January 2008, he lost a vote of confidence in the Senate house, and consequently tendered his resignation as Prime Minister to Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, but continued in office for almost four months for routine business, until early elections were held and a new government was formed.
Up to this time, he has been the only one lead candidate of Italian centre-left who won elections and managed to form a government without the need of opponents' parliamentary support.
On 14 October 2007, Prodi became the first President of the Democratic Party upon foundation of the party. On 12 September 2008, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon selected Prodi as president of the African Union-UN peacekeeping panel. He is currently serving as the UN Special Envoy for the Sahel.
Prodi was born in Scandiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia, Emilia-Romagna. He is the eighth of nine children of Mario Prodi, an engineer originally from a peasant family, and Enrica, a primary school teacher. He has two sisters and six brothers, five of them being like him university professors (one of whom, Vittorio Prodi, has been also a Member of the European Parliament; see also Giorgio Prodi, an oncologist and biosemiotician).
After completing his secondary education at the Liceo Ludovico Ariosto in Reggio Emilia, Prodi graduated in law at Milan's Università Cattolica in 1961 with a thesis on the role of Protectionism in the development of Italian industry. He then carried out postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics.
In 1963 Prodi joined the Christian Democracy party. In the same year he became a teaching assistant for Beniamino Andreatta in the Department of Economics and the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Bologna, subsequently serving as associate professor (1966) and finally (1971–1999) as Professor of Industrial Organisation and Industrial Policy. Prodi has also been a visiting professor at Harvard University and a researcher at the Stanford Research Institute. His research covers mainly competition regulations and the development of small and medium businesses. He is also interested in industrial districts, anti-monopoly policies, relations between states and markets, and the dynamics of the different capitalistic models.
Between 1974 and 1978 he chaired Il Mulino publishing house, in 1982 he became director of the magazines Energia and L'Industria. In 1981 he founded Nomisma, a company of economic studies and consultancy. He also cooperated with the newspapers Corriere della Sera and Il Sole 24 Ore.
Prodi has received almost 20 honorary degrees from institutions in Italy, and from the rest of Europe, North America, Asia, and Africa.
Prodi's political career began as a left-of-centre reformist Christian Democrat and a disciple of Beniamino Andreatta, another economist turned politician. In 1963 he was elected municipal councilor in Reggio Emilia for the Christian Democracy, but after few years he resigned to continue his academic career.
On 25 November 1978 Prodi was appointed Minister of Industry, Commerce and Craftmanship in the government of the Christian Democratic leader Giulio Andreotti. Even if he was a DC member, Prodi was widely considered a "technical minister".
As minister he promoted a law, known as "Prodi law', which aimed a regulating of the extraordinary state administration procedure for the rescue of large enterprises in crisis.
On 2 April 1978, Prodi and other teachers at the University of Bologna passed on a tip-off that revealed the whereabouts of the safe house where the kidnapped Aldo Moro, the former Prime Minister, was being held captive by the Red Brigades. Prodi claimed he had been given this tip-off by the founders of the Christian Democracy party, contacted from beyond the grave via a séance and a Ouija board. Whilst during this supposed séance Prodi thought the word Gradoli referred to a town on the outskirts of Rome, it probably referred to the Roman address of a Red Brigades safe house, located at no. 96, Via Gradoli.
Prodi spoke to the Italian parliament's commission about the case in 1981. In the notes of the Italian parliament commission on terrorism the séance is described as a fake, used to hide the true source of the information. In 1997 Giulio Andreotti declared that the information came from the Bologna section of Autonomia Operaia, a far-left organization with some ties with the BR, and that Cossiga also knew the true source. Judge Ferdinando Imposimato considered Andreotti's theory as "possible", but accused him of having kept information that could have been valuable in a trial about Moro's murder.
Moro's widow later declared that she had repeatedly informed the police that a via Gradoli existed in Rome, but the investigators did not consider it; some replied to her that the street did not appear in Rome's maps. This is confirmed by other Moro relatives, but strongly denied by Francesco Cossiga, who served as Interior Minister during Moro's kidnapping.
In the 1990s the séance matter was reopened by the Italian parliament's commission on terrorism. While Prodi (then Prime Miinister) declared that he had no time for an interview, both Baldassarri (senator and vice-minister in two Berlusconi cabinets) and Clò (Minister of Industry in Lamberto Dini's cabinet and owner of the house where the séance was performed) responded to the call: they confirmed the circumstances of the séance, and that the word "Gradoli" had appeared in several sessions, even if the participants had changed.
Later, other Italian members of the European Commission claimed Prodi had invented this story to conceal the real source of the tip-off, which they believed t o have originated somewhere among the far-left Italian political groups.
This claim was further repeated by Gerard Batten, the Member of the European Parliament for London who claimed he was informed of this by his constituent and former FSB operative, Alexander Litvinenko
In the seventies he had a first managerial assignment as president of Maserati and the boat company "Callegari and Ghigi", companies in difficulty managed by the public financial institution GEPI (Company for Industrial Management and Investments) in order to remedy them.
In 1982–1989 Prodi was appointed, by Prime Minister Giovanni Spadolini, President of the influential state-owned industrial holding company Institute for Industrial Reconstruction (IRI). He was the first economist to lead the IRI.
During his presidency Prodi approved the sale of twenty-nine companies in the group (the largest one was Alfa Romeo, which was privatized in 1986), the reduction of the number of employees, the liquidation of Finsider, Italsider and Italstat companies, extraordinary operations in important companies like STET and Finmeccanica and the attempted sale of Southern Electricity Company (SME) to the CIR group of Carlo De Benedetti; however this operation was heavily hindered by the government of Bettino Craxi. A group of entrepreneurs, including Silvio Berlusconi, made an alternative bid to block the sale; the offer was not honored for financial shortcomings, but the sale of SME blocked.
Thanks to Prodi's policies, in 1987, for the first time in more than a decade, the IRI was in profit.
After leaving his position in 1989, Prodi ran the Bologna based consulting company Analisi e Studi Economici, which he jointly owned along with his wife. Between 1990 and 1993 the company earned £1.4 million, most of which was paid by the investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Through the late 1980s and early 1990s he continuously served various government committees.
In 1993 he was between the main candidates to become Prime Minister at the head of a technocratic government, but the Governor of the Bank of Italy Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was chosen for this office by President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.
In 1993–1994 Prodi was appointed again President of the IRI, by Ciampi, where he oversaw extensive privatization of public assets. For his activities in this period Prodi would later twice come under investigation – firstly for an alleged conflict of interest in relation to contracts awarded to his own economic research company in relation to the Italdel-Siemens merger, and secondly concerning the sale of the loss-making state-owned food conglomerate SME to the multinational Unilever, for which he had previously been a paid consultant.
Prodi's former employer Goldman Sachs was involved in both of the deals. In February 2007 the Italian Treasury Police raided the Milan office of Goldman Sachs, where they removed a file called "MTononi/memo-Prodi02.doc". They also obtained a letter to Siemens from the Frankfurt office of Goldman Sachs regarding the Italdel deal, which revealed that Prodi was made the Senior Advisor of Goldman Sachs International in Italy in March 1990. In November 1996, after Prodi had been elected Prime Minister, Rome prosecutor Guiseppa Geremia concluded that there was enough evidence to press charges against Prodi for conflict of interest in the Unilever deal. The case was however shut down within weeks by superiors, while Geremia was "exiled to Sardinia".
On 25 May 1994, Prodi went to Palazzo Chigi to announce his resignation as IRI President to the new Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; the resignation had been formalised on 31 May and became effective on 22 July.
On 11 August Prodi announced to the Gazzetta di Reggio of his intent to enter politics. A few months earlier, Prodi had rejected a proposal from the Italian People's Party (PPI) to run for the 1994 European election.
On 13 February 1995 Prodi, along with his close friend Arturo Parisi, founded his political alliance The Olive Tree. Prodi's aim was to build a centre-left coalition composed by centrist and leftist parties, opposed to the centre-right alliance led by Silvio Berlusconi, who resigned from the office of Prime Minister few weeks before, when Lega Nord withdrew his support to the government.
The movement was immediately supported by Mariotto Segni, leader of the centrist Segni Pact; after few weeks the post-communist Democratic Party of the Left of Massimo D'Alema, the PPI and the Federation of the Greens also joined the Olive Tree coalition.
On 19 February 1996, the outgoing Prime Minister Lamberto Dini announced that he would run in the election with a new party called Italian Renewal, allied with Prodi's Olive Tree rather than Berlusconi's Pole for Freedoms. Shortly after Berlusconi claimed that Dini "copied his electoral programme".
On election day, Prodi's Olive Tree coalition won over Berlusconi's Pole for Freedoms, becoming the first coalition composed by a post-communist party to win general election since the Second World War. In the Senate The Olive Tree obtained the majority, but in the Chamber it required the external support of Communist Refoundation Party.
Prodi's economic programme consisted in continuing the past governments' work of restoration of the country's economic health, in order to pursue the then seemingly unreachable goal of leading the country within the strict European Monetary System parameters in order to allow the country to join the Euro currency. He succeeded in this in little more than six months.
During his first premiership, Prodi faced the Albanian civil war; his government proposed the so-called "Operation Alba" ("Sunrise"), a multinational peacekeeping force sent to Albania in 1997 and led by Italy. It was intended to help the Albanian government restore law and order in their troubled country after the 1997 rebellion in Albania.
Following the degenerating loss of administrative control by the Government in the first days of March 1997, culminating in the desertion of most Police and many Republican Guard and Army units, leaving their armouries open to the inevitable looting which soon followed, several Nations autonomously helped evacuate their Nationals, causing wider concerns about the fate of others. The UN Security Council therefore agreed United Nations Security Council Resolution 1101 as a stop-gap operation to manage this and buy time, laying the foundations for another International Organisation to manage a planned reconstruction, which after six weeks of debate fell to the Western European Union, creating the Multinational Albanian Police Element around a command structure of Italian Military Carabinieri, which actually undertook the work of Judicial and Police reconstruction, extending into the elimination of the economic causes of the crisis.
The Italian 3rd Army Corps assumed responsibility for the stop-gap mission as Operation Alba, the first multinational Italian-led Mission since World War II. Eleven contributing European Nations  brought humanitarian aid to a country that was in a dramatic economic and political situation.
Prodi's government fell in 1998 when the Communist Refoundation Party withdrew its external support. This led to the formation of a new government led by Massimo D'Alema as Prime Minister. There are those who claim that D'Alema, along with People's Party leader Franco Marini, deliberately engineered the collapse of the Prodi government to become Prime Minister himself. As the result of a vote of no confidence in Prodi's government, D'Alema's nomination was passed by a single vote. This was the first occasion in the history of the Italian republic on which a vote of no confidence had ever been called; the Republic's many previous governments had been brought down by a majority "no" vote on some crucially important piece of legislation (such as the budget).
In September 1999 Prodi, a strong supporter of European Integration, became President of the European Commission, thanks to the support of both the conservative European People's Party, the social-democratic Party of European Socialists and the centrist Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party in the European Parliament.
His commission took office on 13 September 1999 following the scandal and subsequent resignation of the Santer Commission which had damaged the reputation of the institution. It took over from the interim Marín Commission. The College consisted of 20 Commissioners which grew to 30 following the Enlargement of the European Union in 2004. It was the last commission to see two members allocated to the larger member states.
It was during Prodi's presidency, in 2002, that eleven EU member states left their national currencies and adopted the euro as their single currency. This commission (the 10th) saw in increase in power and influence following Amsterdam Treaty.
The treaty was the result of long negotiations which began in Messina, Sicily, on 2 June 1995, nearly forty years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, and reached completion in Amsterdam on 18 June 1997. Following the formal signing of the Treaty on 2 October 1997, the Member States engaged in an equally long and complex ratification process. The European Parliament endorsed the treaty on 19 November 1997, and after two referendums and 13 decisions by parliaments, the Member States finally concluded the procedure.
Under this treaty the member states agreed to devolve certain powers from national governments to the European Parliament across diverse areas, including legislating on immigration, adopting civil and criminal laws, and enacting foreign and security policy (CFSP), as well as implementing institutional changes for expansion as new member nations join the EU.
As well as the enlargement and Amsterdam Treaty, the Prodi Commission also saw the signing and enforcement of the Treaty of Nice as well as the conclusion and signing of the European Constitution: in which he introduced the "Convention method" of negotiation. The treaty was signed by European leaders on 26 February 2001 and came into force on 1 February 2003.
It amended the Maastricht Treaty (or the Treaty on European Union) and the Treaty of Rome (or the Treaty establishing the European Community which, before the Maastricht Treaty, was the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community). The Treaty of Nice reformed the institutional structure of the European Union to withstand eastward expansion, a task which was originally intended to have been done by the Amsterdam Treaty, but failed to be addressed at the time.
The entry into force of the treaty was in doubt for a time, after its initial rejection by Irish voters in a referendum in June 2001. This referendum result was reversed in a subsequent referendum held a little over a year later.
In 2004, his last year as Commission President, the European Union was enlarged to admit several more member nations, most formerly part of the Soviet bloc. It was the largest single expansion of the European Union (EU), in terms of territory, number of states, and population to date; however, it was not the largest in terms of gross domestic product. It occurred on 1 May 2004.
The simultaneous accessions concerned the following countries (sometimes referred to as the "A10" countries): Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Seven of these were part of the former Eastern Bloc (of which three were from the former Soviet Union and four were and still are members of the Central European alliance Visegrád Group), one of the former Yugoslavia (together sometimes referred to as the "A8" countries), and the remaining two were Mediterranean islands and former British colonies.
Part of the same wave of enlargement was the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, who were unable to join in 2004, but, according to the Commission, constitute part of the fifth enlargement.
The commission was due to leave office on 31 October 2004, but due to opposition from the European parliament to the proposed Barroso Commission which would succeed it, it was extended and finally left office on 21 November 2004. When his mandate expired, Prodi returned to domestic politics.
Shortly before the end of his term as President of the European Commission, Prodi returned to national Italian politics at the helm of the enlarged centre-left coalition, The Union.
Having no party of his own, in order to officially state his candidacy for the 2006 general election, Prodi came up with the idea of an apposite primary election, the first of such kind to be ever introduced in Europe and seen by its creator (Prodi himself) as a democratic move to bring the public and its opinion closer to the Italian politics.
When the primary elections were first proposed, they were mostly meant as a plebiscite for Romano Prodi, since there were no other candidates to the leadership of the coalition. The secretary of the Communist Refoundation Party, Fausto Bertinotti, then announced he would run for the leadership, even if only to act as a symbolic candidate, to avoid a one-candidate election. After some time, more candidates were presented, like Union of Democrats for Europe leader Clemente Mastella, Italy of Values leader and former magistrate Antonio Di Pietro, Federation of the Greens leader Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio and others few minor candidates.
The primary election may have been foreseen an easy win for Romano Prodi, with the other candidates running mostly to "measure their strengths" in the coalition, and they often talked about reaching a certain percentage rather than winning. However, there were rumours of supporters of the House of Freedoms trying to participate in the elections, and vote in favour of Mastella, reputed to be the least competent of the candidates and the least likely to win against Berlusconi, other than the most centrist; other rumours indicated such "fake" left-wing voters would vote for Bertinotti, because his leadership would likely lose any grip on the political centre.
The election had been held nationwide on 16 October 2005, from 8am to 10pm. Poll stations were mainly managed on a voluntary basis; they were hosted mainly in squares, local party quarters, schools, and even restaurants, bars, campers and a hairdresser; some polling stations were also provided outside the country for Italians abroad. Most of the party leaders claimed a result of 1 million voters would be a good success for the election, but over four million people for the occasion went to cast a vote in the primary election.
After having won the centre-left primary election, Prodi led The Union coalition in the 2006 election. The Union was an heterogeneous alliance, which was formed by centrist parties like UDEUR and communists like PRC and Party of Italian Communists.
Prodi led his coalition to the electoral campaign preceding the election, eventually on 9 and 10 April won by a very narrow margin of 25,000 votes, and a final majority of two seats in the Senate. Initial exit polls suggested a victory for Prodi, but the results narrowed as the count progressed. On 11 April 2006, Prodi declared victory; Berlusconi never conceded defeat explicitly but this is not required by the Italian law.
Preliminary results showed The Union leading the House of Freedoms in the Chamber of Deputies, with 340 seats to 277, thanks to obtaining a majority bonus (actual votes were distributed 49.81% to 49.74%). One more seat is allied with The Union (Aosta Valley) and 7 more seats in the foreign constituency. The House of Freedoms had secured a slight majority of Senate seats elected within Italy (155 seats to 154), but The Union won 4 of the 6 seats allocated to voters outside Italy, giving them control of both chambers.
On 19 April 2006, Italy's Supreme Court of Cassation ruled that Prodi had indeed won the election, winning control of the Chamber of Deputies by only 24,755 votes out of more than 38 million votes cast, and winning 158 seats in the Senate to 156 for Berlusconi's coalition. Even so, Berlusconi refused to concede defeat, claiming unproven fraud.
Prodi's appointment was somewhat delayed, as the outgoing President of the Republic, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, ended his mandate in May, not having enough time for the usual procedure (consultations made by the President, appointment of a Prime Minister, motion of confidence and oath of office). After the acrimonious election of Giorgio Napolitano to replace Ciampi, Prodi could proceed with his transition to government. On 16 May he was invited by Napolitano to form a government. The following day, 17 May 2006, Prodi and his second cabinet were sworn into office.
Prodi's new cabinet drew in politicians from across his centre-left winning coalition, in addition to Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, an unelected former official of the European Central Bank with no partisan membership. Romano Prodi obtained the support for his cabinet on 19 May at the Senate and on 23 May at the Chamber of Deputies.
The coalition led by Romano Prodi, thanks to the electoral law which gave the winner a sixty-seat majority, can count on a good majority in the Chamber of Deputies but only on a very narrow majority in the Senate. The composition of the coalition was heterogeneous, combining parties of communist ideology, the Party of Italian Communists and Communist Refoundation Party, within the same government as parties of Catholic inspiration, Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy and UDEUR Populars. The latter was led by Clemente Mastella, former chairman of Christian Democracy. Therefore, according to critics,[by whom?] it was difficult to have a single policy in different key areas, such as economics and foreign politics (for instance, Italian military presence in Afghanistan).
In foreign policy, the Prodi II Cabinet continued the engagement in Afghanistan, under UN command, while withdrawing troops from post-invasion Iraq on 18 May 2006, when Prodi laid out some sense of his new foreign policy, pledging to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq and called the Iraq war a "grave mistake that has not solved but increased the problem of security".
The major effort of foreign minister Massimo D'Alema concerned the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War, being the first to offer troops to the UN for the constitution of the UNIFIL force, and assuming its command in February 2007. In fact Prodi had a key role in the creation of a multinational peacekeeping force in Lebanon following the Israel-Lebanon conflict.
Italy led negotiations with the Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and was proposed by Israel to head the multinational peacekeeping mission, although the dangers of the mission for Italian troops sparked warnings from the center-right opposition that it could prove a "kamikaze" mission, with the peacekeepers sandwiched between Israel and the well-armed Hezbollah. Prodi and D’Alema pledged Italy’s willingness to enforce the United Nations resolution on Lebanon and urged other European Union member states to do the same because the stability of the Middle East should be a chief concern for Europeans.
Prodi's government faced a crisis over policies in early 2007, after just nine months of government. Three ministers in Prodi's Cabinet boycotted a vote in January to continue funding for Italian troop deployments in Afghanistan. Lawmakers approved the expansion of the US military base Caserma Ederle at the end of January, but the victory was so narrow that Deputy Prime Minister Francesco Rutelli criticised members of the coalition who had not supported the government. At around the same time, Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, of the coalition member UDEUR Populars, said he would rather see the government fall than support its unwed couples legislation.
Tens of thousands of people marched in Vicenza against the expansion of Caserma Ederle, which saw the participation of some leading far-left members of the government. Harsh debates followed in the Italian Senate on 20 February 2007. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Massimo D'Alema declared during an official visit in Ibiza, Spain that, without a majority on foreign policy affairs, the government would resign. The following day, D'Alema gave a speech at the Senate representing the government, clarifying his foreign policy and asking the Senate to vote for or against it. In spite of the fear of many senators that Prodi's defeat would return Silvio Berlusconi to power, the Senate did not approve a motion backing Prodi's government foreign policy, two votes shy of the required majority of 160.
After a Government meeting on 21 February, Romano Prodi tendered his resignation to the President Giorgio Napolitano, who cut short an official visit to Bologna in order to receive the Prime Minister. Prodi's spokesman indicated that he would only agree to form a new Government "if, and only if, he is guaranteed the full support of all the parties in the majority from now on." On 22 February, centre-left coalition party leaders backed a non-negotiable list of twelve political conditions given by Prodi as conditions of his remaining in office. President Napolitano held talks with political leaders on 23 February to decide whether to confirm Prodi's Government, ask Prodi to form a new government or call fresh elections.
Following these talks, on 24 February, President Napolitano asked Prodi to remain in office but to submit to a vote of confidence in both houses. "I will seek a vote of confidence as soon as possible, with renewed impetus and a united and determined coalition," Prodi said after meeting with President Giorgio Napolitano. On 28 February, the Senate voted to grant confidence to Prodi's Government. Though facing strong opposition from the centre-right coalition, the vote resulted in a 162–157 victory. Prodi then faced a vote of confidence in the lower house on 2 March, which he won as expected with a large majority of 342–198.
On 14 October 2007, Prodi oversaw the merger of two main parties of the Italian centre-left, Democrats of the Left and Democracy is Freedom – The Daisy, creating the Democratic Party. Prodi himself led the merger of the two parties, which had been planned over a twelve-year period, and became the first President of the party. He announced his resignation from that post on 16 April 2008, two days after the Democratic Party's defeat in the general election.
In early January 2008, Justice Minister and Union of Democrats for Europe's leader Clemente Mastella resigned after his wife Sandra Lonardo was put under house arrest for corruption charges. With three Senators, UDEUR was instrumental to ensure a narrow centre-left majority in the Italian Senate.
After first promising to support the government, he later retracted this support, and his party followed, in part also due to pressure from the Vatican, for which the government's proposed laws in regards to registered partnerships of same-sex couples, and other liberal reforms were objectionable. Mastella also cited lack of solidarity from the majority parties after the arrest of his wife, and declared that his party would vote against the government bills since then.
The decision of former Minister of Justice Mastella arrived a few days after the confirmation of the Constitutional Court which confirmed the referendum to modify the electoral system. As stated many times by Minister Mastella, if the referendum would have been confirmed this would lead directly to the fall of the government and it happened.
The fall of the government would disrupt a pending election-law referendum that if passed would make it harder for small parties like Mastella's to gain seats in parliament.
The UDEUR defection forced caused Prodi to ask for a confidence vote in both Chambers: he won a clear majority in the Chamber of Deputies on 23 January, but was defeated 156 to 161 (with 1 abstention) in the Senate the next day. He therefore tendered his resignation as Prime Minister to President Giorgio Napolitano, who accepted it and appointed the President of the Senate, Franco Marini, with the task of evaulating possibilities for forming interim government to implement electoral reforms prior to holding elections. Marini, after consultation with all major political forces, acknowledged the impossibility of doing so on 5 February, forcing Napolitano to announce the end of the legislature. Prodi said that he would not seek to lead a new government and snap election were called. In the election that followed in April 2008, Berlusconi's centre-right The People of Freedom and allies defeated the Democratic Party.
On 19 March 2008, during the political campaign for the snap general election, Romano Prodi stated "I called it a day with Italian politics and maybe with politics in general."
On 6 February 2009, he was appointed Professor-at-Large at the Watson Institute for International Studies of Brown University. Since 2010 Romano Prodi is the chair for Sino-European dialogue at the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS – Shanghai&Beijing), China's leading business school.
Prodi is also a member of the Club de Madrid, an international organization of former democratic statesmen, which works to strengthen democratic governance and leadership. He is a former member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group.
Prodi was drafted by Democratic Party parliamentarians to be President of Italy during the 2013 presidential election after Democratic Party–People of Freedom compromise candidate Franco Marini failed to receive sufficient votes on the first ballot. During the first three rounds of voting few people cast ballots for Prodi (14 on the first ballot, 13 on the second, and 22 on the third).
On 16 April 2013, just a few day prior to the fourth ballot, Prodi gave a lectio magistralis at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Angelicum entitled “I grandi cambiamenti della politica e dell’economia mondiale: c’è un posto per l’Europa?” ("The Great Changes in Politics and the World Economy: Is there Room for Europe?). Prodi was sponsored by the Angelicum and the Università degli Studi Guglielmo Marconi on behalf of the Political Science program "Scienze Politiche e del Buon Governo."
A few days later, on 19 April, starting on the fourth ballot Prodi was looked at seriously as a possible candidate. However, Prodi announced he was pulling out of the race for president after more than 100 center-left electors didn't vote for him: he received only 395 (of 504 votes needed to be elected.) After this vote Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of center-left Democratic Party announced his resignation as party's secretary.
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