The 1979 elections marked, after the abandonment of the national solidarity policy, the substantial resumption of center-left alliances revolving around the DC-PSI axis, but with the decisive novelty represented by the new bargaining power that Craxi managed to obtain for his party regardless of the stunted electoral successes. The PCI, which had steadily passed to the opposition, began a radically self-critical reflection, and to a certain extent also self-defeating: having abandoned the compromises promoted and endured in the previous three years, it seemed more productive to reaffirm the traditional communist diversity.
A new government was reached only in August with the ministry chaired by F. Cossiga after the unsuccessful attempts of Andreotti, Craxi and FM Pandolfi. Also on this occasion Pertini had tried to propose a turning point. But the candidacy of a socialist was not yet ripe and was strongly opposed by the DC.
According to LOCALTIMEZONE.ORG, the Cossiga cabinet was supported by the vote of DC, PSDI, PLI and could count on the abstention of the PSI and the PRI. It also made use of the contribution of two ” technicians ” from the socialist area, F. Reviglio to Finance and MS Giannini to the Public Service. In December the government promoted the Italian adhesion to the new NATO defense system which, in response to the strengthening of Soviet nuclear weapons, provided for the installation of “Euromissiles” also in Italy In the same month an anti-terrorism decree was issued which provided for an extension of the police arrest, an increase in sentences and – here was the greatest and most contested novelty – a series of measures in favor of the “ repentants ”, that is, the terrorists willing to cooperate in the investigation. Exceeded the obstructionism of the radicals, the new legislation was approved in February 1980. Integrated by another law of May 1982 on “dissociated”, it will allow, from its first application, to obtain significant successes despite the accentuation of the terrorist phenomenon. The positive results did not cancel the consideration that the favorable treatment granted to repentants together with significant penalty discounts, in addition to arousing ethical and legal problems, was in contradiction with a political line that had not wanted to compromise with terrorism and configured, according to some, a system of “special laws” which they said they did not want to adopt in any case. Much contested, especially in the non-communist left, was the judicial initiative that led to prison, in the April 1979, the most prominent exponents of workers’ autonomy as organizers and inspirers of terrorism. The whole of the accusations and the main charges were not confirmed, but the operation helped to give a decisive blow to widespread terrorism.
The uncertain relations between the parties weighed on the compactness of the government majority, divided between those who supported the Cossiga ministry and those who provided support from the outside through abstention. A contribution to clarity came from the DC congress (15-20 February 1980) in which, albeit slightly, the line – expression of the center and of the group of C. Donat Cattin – in favor of the definitive abandonment of the hypotheses of collaboration with the PCI prevailed., a position supported instead by the other leftists and by the Andreottians: a ” preamble ” to the final document confirmed the indication of privileged relations with the PSI. So when Cossiga resigns on March 19, he will be able to form a new government in a short time, this time with Socialists and Republicans, while Social Democrats and Liberals switched to opposition. The socialists, who had no longer been part of the government since November 1974, obtained a series of important ministries, but above all they saw Craxi’s line recognized and applied, which had claimed to the PSI the role of pivot of alliances and guarantor of ” governability ” of the country.
The regional elections held on 8-9 June 1980 (together with the municipal and provincial ones) rewarded the relaunch of the PSI with a small increase that brought it to 12.7% of the votes, while the DC, while recovering 1.5% compared to 1975, with 36.8% it remained below policy results. The PCI, with 31.5%, lost overall compared to the previous regional ones, when it had reported 33.4%, but maintained or increased the consensus in the large cities administered by left-wing juntas. In comparison with the policies of 1979, the PSDI and the PLI were rewarded with 5% and 2.7% respectively. But perhaps the most significant was the decrease in voters and the high percentage (6.1%) of blank and null ballots.
The substantial political and even more social balance of a country subjected to difficult tests by left-wing terrorism was again challenged by a very serious bomb attack at the Bologna station which, on 2 August, resulted in 85 deaths. An unprecedented criminal act, attributed to right-wing terrorism, but still insufficiently clarified. Once again, in fact, as in the other cases of massacres, from that of Piazza Fontana in Milan on 12 December 1969 onwards, these very serious crimes remained unpunished; and each time sections of the security services were called into question for diverting investigations or hiding responsibility. After many years it must be noted that every time the state apparatuses were called into question, the judicial solution tended systematically to move away.
The Bologna massacre and the publicly expressed discontent against the government men who attended the funeral of the victims thickened more clouds over the Cossiga ministry, already worn down by the Donat Cattin affair, when the prime minister was accused of having informed the deputy secretary of the DC that the son Marco was wanted as a Frontline terrorist. The investigating commission acquitted Cossiga from the accusation of aiding and abetting, but the opposition reopened the matter by bringing the case before the assembled chambers which on July 27 definitively exonerated the prime minister. Two months later the government, beaten in the House on the conversion of important financial measures into law, resigned.