Biography of Bettino Craxi (1934-2000)

Italian politician, born on 24 February 1934 in Milan and died on January 19, 2000 in Hammamet (Tunisia), who was Prime Minister of the country between 1983 and 1987. Autoexiliado and fugitive from the Justice of his country as a result of the financial scandal uncovered in 1992 (Tangentopolis) by the judges in the clean hands movement, was the first Socialist politician who occupied the Palazzo Chigi, seat of the Presidency of the Government, with a Cabinet of centre-left coalition, which set a record 1.058 uninterrupted days of a same Cabinet Government.

Political beginnings: a meteoric career

Belonging to a wealthy bourgeois family of Sicilian origin, at eighteen joined the PSI (Socialist Party of Italy), at the time entered in the Milan University to study law, career that did not finish because of increased political activity in the bosom of the party. So much so that, in 1963, Craxi went on to become a member of the Central Committee of the party and, two years later, provincial President of the same. Previously, Craxi was able to be appointed councillor in the city of Milan, a city that would eventually become his personal stronghold and its future political power base.

The year 1968 was the political and social rise final of Bettino Craxi, when he was elected Deputy in the lower Chamber of Italy, charge that stood out for leading the Socialist internal faction known as "autonomist", favourable to a political connection with the two most powerful parties progressive estrangement of the Italian political scene, the PCI (Communist Party of Italy) and DC (Democrazia Cristiana)so to develop a Socialist policy of reform with centrist trend and make the third party in discord, which would allow it to leave its usual ostracism in the political life of the country. After obtaining, in 1968, the Vice President of the party, in 1976 took over the Presidency of the same, but just election time of the training in its history, with support from the voters below 10% throughout the country.

Despite being harshly criticized for its authoritarianism and "Bonapartist" conception of the party leadership, Craxi was able to definitively consolidate the party in the Italian political game. In just five years, and thanks to its effectiveness in establishing political alliances beneficial to the interests of the party, both national and local, tactic known as "the power of the Coalition", Craxi was able to become the political arbiter of Italy, to the point that, between 1979 to 1983, the PSI participated in six consecutive coalition Governments, previously a thing impossible upon arrival.

The elections early in 1983 provided the opportunity to take power, in large part due to the electoral defeat of his political partner, the DC, and its excellent reputation in the media and its popularity in the Middle Italian electorate to Craxi. Despite the modest advance of party, much greater weight politically and socially to that election, President Sandro Pertini commissioned, in the month of August, the formation of the new Cabinet.

The Presidency of Bettino Craxi

Craxi formed a coalition Government, called the "pentapartito", but with Democrat majority. Nicknamed "il tedesco" ('German'), its imperative character or as "rei Bettino" given his little arrogance disguised as was in power, once in power, the man of the match gave way to the statesman. Craxi continued its strategy of marginalisation of the PCI repeatedly refusing to sign any alliances with such training, at the time that most shook even his collaboration with the DC and several minority groups that assured the local or regional power. PCI never forgave such concrete political platform.

Showing large dose of energy and decision, Craxi accomplished enough in his Government stability to put Italy in the world directory of industrialized countries after having overcome the very great Britain in the GDP. But the politics of budget cuts and the modification of the system of wage indexing across the country provoked a series of widespread strikes that ended up eroding the political credit of the PSI and its leader. His presidency was marked by the defence of its interests and those of his party rather than the line of fiscal and political reforms he had promised in the election campaign. Once the differences were between the PSI and the DC, Craxi resigned as head of Government, on April 9, 1987. Before leaving office, he carried out the renovation of the Concordat with the Vatican.

Tangentopolis scandal

In 1992 it was uncovered by the judges in the clean hands movement financial scandal known as Tangentopolis, which swept from the political scene to the DC and PSI of Craxi.

Earlier that year, the judicial authorities ordered a thorough criminal investigation against widespread corruption and bribery in the Italian public administration, policy and high enterprise circles. Soon revealed connections between the Sicilian Mafia and more than four hundred parliamentarians, as well as the payment of large sums of money by the major Italian companies to the Government at the time of Craxi and high political personalities to get to change substantial commissions of work by State and fiscal and trade privileges of all kinds. That paid money served to finance political parties and, in some cases, to personally enrich many politicians, among them the own Bettino Craxi.

Craxi, in an act of courage and perhaps hubris, did not deny having received illegal money to finance the PSI, before contrary: said that this was a common practice and accepted by all political parties in the country. Also held, according to his own words, to... "stealing for the party was not a crime, but as much an irregularity...".

Judicial harassment

Craxi accounts with Justice began on December 15, 1992, the date on which the Milan judges opened proceedings against him for alleged corruption and involvement in the Tangentopolis scandal. This, obviously, forced his resignation in front of the General Secretariat of the PSI and the rest of the positions held in the formation, on February 11, 1993, beset every day more by all the summaries that were opened against her in the small interval of time elapsed between those two months. In December 1993 the Milan Prosecutor's office requested his immediate prosecution accused of having collected group of carbides ENI and the SAI insurance commissions, both Italian.

To proceed with his trial, the Italian Congress had withdrawn to Craxi parliamentary immunity and, in addition, the Passport, in order to prevent that it fugara abroad; However, the Italian stepped forward and took refuge in the Tunisian town of Hammamet, thanks to his friendship with the President of that country, Abidin Ben Alí.

On March 29, 1994 the trial began in Milan by illegal commissions. Craxi was sentenced to five years in prison. Tried in absentia for his flight, it returned to be processed by the 29th of the same year, after which was sentenced to a total sentence of eight years and a half in prison and to a perpetual disqualification for public office in Italy. Finally, on July 11, 1995, a Milan court issued arrest warrant against Bettino Craxi, accused of charges of corruption and illegal financing. Two weeks later, it was declared a fugitive from Italian justice.

As revolted investigations, the total amount received the PSI in concepts of bribes and patronage of all kinds between the years 1987 to 1990 (the only time period that could be calculated accurately), amounted to some 187,000 million lire (about 16,000 million pesetas).

His death

Become the symbol of the "Republic" of bribes, Craxi spent all his Tunisian exile enclosed in his villa in Hammamet, dreaming of returning to Italy with a political and public rehabilitation which never arrived, due to strong opposition from the main party of the left in Italy, the Democratic Party of the left (former PCI), led by the current Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema.

Suffering a little careful diabetes which caused gangrene in one leg and serious heart problems, sudden death by heart attack, on the afternoon of 19 January of the year 2000, prevented him from taste the sweetness of a total political rehabilitation which Parliament had been discussing since October last year as a result of the cancellation by the Supreme Court, in April 1998, several convictions that weighed upon him, and also for humanitarian reasons, taking into account the progressive worsening of his health.

Bettino Craxi's political career can be summed up in a dizzying rise and deep fall. His political star declined in a way never seen before in Italy; It went from being one of most promising leaders living exile in his villa in Tunisia, reviled by those before him had exalted and praised when it was in power.

Craxi died, and also closed the accounts to the Justice of Andreotti, Italy seems to be definitely over a murky chapter in its recent history.


LAGORIO, Lelio. L´Ultima Italy. Milan: Franco Angeli, 1991.

LEGNANI, Massimo. Italy: 1945-1994. Madrid: Marcial Pons, 1994.

PALMOWSKI, Jan. Universal history of the 21st century. Madrid: Editorial Complutense, 1998.

SCISSORS, Ramon. The revolution of the judges: Falcone Barber, a crusade against political corruption. Madrid: Temas de today, 1994.

VANNUCCI, Alberto. Il mercato della corruzione. Milan: Società Aperta. 1997.