According to usaers, the mechanism of bribes was a well known and essentially tolerated system, with which the majority of Italians were used to living with very little public scandal and many individual compromises. The investigations related to this matter had also been numerous in the past, but the system had continued to function and to spread widely. Countless moments in the relationship with public authorities and administrations – from contracts to minute bureaucratic authorizations – were marked by the payment of bribes. The complicity in this sector brought together politicians and bureaucracy, public administrators, large and small entrepreneurs, individual citizens. The major opposition force, the PCI, moreover, he had not exercised all his possibilities of control by drawing on illicit financing from communist countries and allowing – where the communists managed, by virtue of the consociative mechanisms, positions of power – the spread of the system: obtaining ample counterpart guarantees for the benefit of companies linked to ” red ” cooperatives. The novelty of the “ clean hands ” investigation lay in the dimension of the phenomenon that came to light, in the numerous confirmations, admissions and confessions of politicians and entrepreneurs, in the determination of the judiciary and above all in the different political and moral climate that the success of a ” anti-system ” force as the Leagues had helped to create.
A part of the country not only rebelled against the system of bribes, but also began to reject another of the pillars of social relations in Italy, the one based on patronage. Clientelism in its broadest sense – and in the various versions of corporate protection – had over time become the specifically Italian form of political representation and mediation, as well as one of the main channels of social ascent. Classes and groups that did not feel represented or that perceived the current mechanism as too expensive – in terms of taxation or the inefficiency of public services – began to reject it from a certain moment on, looking for other forms of political representation. It matters little if these, like the Leagues, they relied on a certain degree of demagoguery whereby the state appeared as a corporation of abusive income earners guaranteed by the political system. The anti-centralism was largely compensated by the recovery of values such as regional identity and belonging.
The chronicles of the crisis of the political system and of the ” collapse ” of public structures (from health to state industries) found new nourishment in the scandal of bribes extended from Milan to other realities of the peninsula. The arrows of public opinion aimed almost exclusively at the political class, neglecting the responsibilities of those very large sectors of civil society that continued to recognize themselves in the behavior of men and parties to whom they had entrusted the protection of their interests and the defense of their ideas.
Faced with a North more responsive to the political system, the South remained substantially loyal to the governing parties in the widespread belief of a permanent effectiveness of the swap vote precisely in the areas of the country where the economic and social difficulties were most accentuated. However, an awakening of civil society could also be spoken of in the southern regions, and first of all in Sicily, where organized crime had extended its control – thanks to the proceeds of illegal activities – to entire sectors of the economy and accentuated the links with politicians and administrators. The mafia in Sicily, the ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria, the Camorra in Campania had in some parts of these regions – where the highest percentage of blood crimes were committed – full control of the territory. In Sicily an open war was underway against the representatives of the state which had already made many victims in previous years, but which was intensifying after the decision to coordinate the fight against the mafia with a superpower of attorney, the National Anti-Mafia Directorate, and with an organization investigation center, the Anti-Mafia Investigation Directorate. On May 23, 1992, a bomb attack on the highway between Palermo airport and the city killed the magistrate G. Falcone, his wife and three escort men. Falcone had been, with P. Borsellino and other magistrates, one of the leading judges of thatanti-mafia pool of Palermo which had completed the great trial of 1986 (see mafia, in this Appendix). He had recently been called by the socialist C. Martelli to direct Criminal Affairs at the Ministry of Grace and Justice and was a candidate for the superpower of attorney. The emotional reaction in all of Italy was very strong due to the esteem and popularity that Falcone enjoyed; even the Parliament, which had been meeting for a few days to elect the President of the Republic, seemed urged to find a solution quickly. But the mafia did not stop and on 19 July a car bomb exploded in the heart of Palermo killed Borsellino and the five officers who were escorting him.
The problems facing the new government were therefore exceptional and President Scalfaro was faced with a difficult designation. The PSI claimed the presidency of the Council after a Christian Democrat exponent had risen to the Quirinale. But Craxi’s return to Palazzo Chigi seemed difficult. The bribery scandal had particularly affected the Milanese PSI and many men who were headed by the socialist leader (later – at the end of the year and during 1993 – reached himself by numerous warranties from the judiciary). On June 16 Scalfaro appointed another socialist exponent, G. Amato, who on the 28th succeeded in launching a four-party government DC-PSI-PSDI-PLI lightened by many ministers and undersecretaries compared to previous governments.