A fragmented coalition of centre‐left parties in Italy. Created in 1995, it became the major centre‐left coalition, known as the Union, and formed a government in 1996–2001, and from 2006. Led into the 1996 election by Prodi, it obtained a majority against Berlusconi's Forza Italia. However, with the responsibility of government its internal political differences were accentuated, especially when a number of cuts in public spending had to be enacted to prepare the country for entry into the euro. Prodi was unable to keep the coalition united behind his policies, and in 1998 he was succeeded by Massimo D'Alema, the leader of the Democratic Socialists (Communist Party, Italy). Two years later, D'Alema was in turn succeeded by the more popular Guiliano Amato.
The coalition lost the 2001 elections to Berlusconi's House of Liberties Alliance. It regrouped in 2006 under Prodi, and narrowly won the elections by 25,000 votes. With a narrow majority in both Houses of Parliament, the new Union government, which combined not just the three parties comprising the Olive Tree alliance, but seven other splinter parties, struggled to assemble the compromises necessary to realize essential social reform. In an effort to overcome the fragmentation of the centre‐left, the two largest parties of the Union, the Christian‐Democratic Margherita Alliance and the ex‐Communist ‘Refondazione’ proposed to unite as the ‘Democratic Party’ in 2008.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).