Italian political leaders were among the early voters on Sunday (20 June) is what is regarded as the most crucial general election for the nation since World War Two.
GV Rome street scene
MV Italian President Leone votes
SV Communist Party leader Berlinguer voting (3 shots)
MV Italian Socialist leader, Saragat voting
GV Pope Paul gives public blessing
MV Nuns entering polling station
According to U.S. Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, if the Communists gain a share in the Italian government, it could have the most profound consequences for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). At the centre of the concern are NATO's nuclear secrets. Dr. Kissinger reasons that if the Communists enter the government, then those secrets would be at risk - and face exposure to the Soviet Union. Dr. Kissinger also says NATO's "soft southern flank" would be turned to the advantage of the Soviets. The charge is strongly denied by the Communists. They say they want Italy to remain in NATO and point to their independent line against the Soviet Union - and support for western style democratic government.
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Background: Italian political leaders were among the early voters on Sunday (20 June) is what is regarded as the most crucial general election for the nation since World War Two. Voters are deciding whether the most powerful Communist party in the western world should be allowed a share in the government for the first time in nearly 30 years.
SYNOPSIS: In Rome, the Italian President, Signor Giovanni Leone, was one of the first voters. His party, the Christian Democrats, have dominated every government since the fall of Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. However, final opinion poll predictions place the Communists neck-and-neck with the Christian Democrats. The Communists have been in opposition since the post-war coalitions of 1945-1947 but way they are now poised for a major breakthrough.
Communist Party leader, Signor Enrico Berlinguer, was almost hidden in the throng of newsmen as he went to vote near Rome. He told them he hoped Italians would vote without fear of change. He said that change was increasingly necessary for Italy to have stable government. However, United States Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, has warned that Communist entry into the government would require a re-assessment of Italian-American relations.
The communists are supported by the third major party, the Social Democrats, led by Signor Giuseppe Saragat - another early voter. But the Christian Democrats have firmly ruled out any chance of collaboration with the Communists, saying they would prefer opposition.
Pope Paul echoes the Christian Democratic view. During his Sunday blessing from St. Peter's, he did not refer directly to the elections. Instead, he prayed for liberty, justice and freedom. However, last week he delivered an outspoken attack on the Communists, and called on Catholics to vote for the Vatican-backed, Christian Democrats.