Political scandals pile up in Italy, but Andreotti manages to survive
''It was raining mud from the skies above Italy.'' This front-page headline in a recent issue of one of Italy's most respected newspapers, La Repubblica, is a quote from a novel written in 1913 by Luigi Pirandello, the Italian dramatist and author. Its imagery couldn't be more apt today.
The mud of political scandal - of accusations, suspicion, corruption - seems to be everywhere in the Italy of 1984.
The most urgent political question of the moment has become: How will the Christian Democratic Party, which virtually controls the five-party coalition government, weather the storm?
But behind this political question is another, of far greater long-range significance for a country that has had 43 governments - all under the thumb of the Christian Democrats - in the last 39 years: Will the current deluge of accusations and revelations of guilt and corruption finally result in a significant cleansing of the general political picture in Italy?
On Oct. 30, at the request of the opposition Communist Party, a vote was called in the Senate on whether Christian Democratic Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti should be forced to resign. A few days before, Christian Democratic Party chief Ciriaco De Mita had been quoted as saying Mr. Andreotti's resignation would bring down the government.
But when the Senate met to vote on the Andreotti question, the president of the Senate required that votes be cast openly instead of by secret ballot. The Communists roundly criticized this move, saying the members of the Senate would be more likely to vote the ''party line'' - thus protecting Andreotti - than to heed the dictates of their conscience.
And so it proved. The majority of votes were in Andreotti's favor. His position as foreign minister remains secure, and the present government is still intact.
Andreotti's long and distinguished career - he has been active in Italian politics since 1947 and has served as prime minister in five governments - would have made him an obvious choice for the post of president, whose formal powers are limited but whose prestige and political influence are considerable.
At the very least, the accusations against Andreotti are believed to have rendered it impossible for him to succeed President Sandro Pertini when his current seven-year term expires next July.
What would really have been significant about this 44th government crisis since the founding of the Italian Republic in 1945 concerns what is known here as la questione morale. If the present coalition government had fallen, its demise would have been due primarily to the large number and gravity of the political scandals in which it - and specifically the Christian Democratic Party - is involved.
The phrase ''the moral question'' has been used most often in connection with allegations against Andreotti himself. He is suspected of illegal dealings with financier Michele Sindona, who was convicted in the United States in 1980 for his role in the failure of the Franklin National Bank. At present Mr. Sindona is being questioned by Italian police near Milan.
Andreotti's name has come up during the current investigations of the Mafia in Sicily. Many of Sicily's Christian Democratic politicians who have been found to have connections with the Mafia had long supported Andreotti.
The other political scandals sweeping over Italy seem endless. The case involving Ciro Cirillo, the secretary of the Christian Democratic Party of Naples who was held - and later released - by the terrorist Red Brigades in the spring of 1981, is being heard in the Senate. It has been charged that the Christian Democrats made a secret payoff for Cirillo's release, and that the Italian secret service organization, Sismi, was involved.
The Sismi is also in the news because one of its former officers has admitted the organization's involvement in the 1980 bombing of the railroad station in Bologna, which killed 83 people.
In addition, a select nucleus within the Sismi, known as Superesse, was a key element in the secret Masonic/political organization Propaganda 2 (P2), which was uncovered in 1981.
According to recent accusations, the Superesse was involved in operations concerning the Pope, Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat, party secretary Cirillo, and the Mafia. The Superesse apparently also had dealings with financier Roberto Calvi of the failed Banco Ambrosiano, whose death in London in 1982 has yet to be explained.
Then there is the almost universal conviction that there are links between the Mafia and the government. Vito Ciancimino, a former Christian Democratic mayor of Palermo (and at one time Italy's representative to the European Community in Brussels), was arrested Nov. 4 and taken to a prison in Rome. He was charged with links to the Mafia and with having transferred millions of dollars to Canada. It is also widely believed that two other leading members of the Christian Democratic Party in Sicily, Salvo Lima and Luigi Gioia, have been in the pay of the Mafia for a number of years.
Scandals also abound on a local level. Usually involving accusations of corruption, collusion, or the siphoning off of government funds, these incidents often have national repercussions. For example, a recent news item noted the arrest of a captain of the Carabinieri in the Sicilian town of Trapani on charges of ''corruption and conflict of interests.'' This man had reportedly detained, then released, the accused killer of Gen. Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, who headed a police crackdown on the Mafia in 1982. The captain's arrest will raise more questions about links between the Mafia and local governments in Sicily.
Italian politics has been soiled by scandals for many years. The current deluge of accusations and revelations is nothing new. But the hope has been voiced here in Rome that this time may be different.
The courage and tenacity of the Sicilian magistrates who have been carrying on a highly dangerous war against the Mafia with remarkable success may have inspired others to greater efforts toward uncovering corruption and crime. The long-prevailing attitude of cynicism and distrust of authority may have reached the boiling point.
Everyone seems to be in agreement that a cleansing is essential if the Italian democratic system is to survive.