Italy: “History risks repeating itself…”

The BBC’s Europe editor, Gavin Hewitt has been looking to Italy ahead of a general election brought 2 months early after Silvio Berlusconi’s party withdrew support for Mario Monti’s technocratic government – voting begins on Sunday.  The FT notes that

Strong, stable government will be needed to continue the reform process put in place by Mr Monti’s technocrats, and to argue in Brussels for more growth-oriented policies and a possible relaxation of fiscal deficit targets.

However, the worst-case scenario emerging from these elections is a centre-left coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani’s Democrats unable to reach a majority in the Senate even if supported by Mr Monti’s small group of reform-minded centrists.

Polls indicate that the centre-left will take the lower house, where a majority premium is guaranteed for the largest party or coalition.

But it is a different story in the Senate, where the premium is awarded on a regional basis. A surge by the anti-party and eurosceptic Five Star Movement and a comeback by Mr Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition promising lavish tax cuts could lead to a hung parliament – depending on the outcome in four big regions where the result is too close to call.

And from Gavin Hewitt

Brussels and Berlin would like to see Mr Bersani form an alliance with Mario Monti as part of a governing coalition.

The prime minister, who took over after Mr Berlusconi’s fall in 2011, has proved an awkward candidate. Mr Bersani, speaking in Naples, had a swipe at him saying he never goes onto the streets to meet people, although he did not rule out including him in a future government.

Mr Monti’s problem is that he struggles to convince voters he is on the side of ordinary Italians. A partnership with Mr Bersani would be difficult but the markets might prefer such an arrangement to the alternatives.

One theme in this campaign has been Germany. At rally after rally the Germans get a mention. Mr Berlusconi warns against a German Europe. So do some of the socialists.

Mr Monti claimed Angela Merkel did not want a centre-left victory, only for Berlin to insist she had not expressed a preference. Some German politicians have warned against a Berlusconi victory. The interference is widely resented in Italy.

There is a dangerous, unpredictable mood in Italy and the election result remains uncertain.

Mr Bersani told me the people were “disappointed, disillusioned and angry”. He said the illusions and fairy tales of the right had been stripped away. Perhaps. There is here the feel of a vacuum, of a country which might need a second election relatively soon.

The fear is of Greek-style paralysis in the euro-zone’s third largest economy.

What do you do when the Borg fail get voted out?  [Have another election? – Ed]  Perhaps…

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  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Pete! Two paragraphs from Spiegel:

    Top politicians tend to remain silent on elections being held abroad. But German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle this week has issued a barely concealed warning to Italians against voting for Silvio Berlusconi. And he isn’t the only one in Berlin who is nervous about a possible return of “Il Cavaliere.”

    It was German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble who allegedly fired the first shot. In an interview with the Italian newsmagazine l’Espresso late last week, Schäuble warned Italians against voting for Silvio Berlusconi in general elections scheduled for Feb. 24 and 25. “Silvio Berlusconi may be an effective campaign strategist,” the magazine quotes Schäuble as saying. “But my advice to the Italians is not to make the same mistake again by re-electing him.”

    Interesting times…..

  • sherdy

    I’ve been reading with a certain incredulity of the brass-necked efforts by this tinpot dictator to make a political comeback – surely the Italians cannot be so stupid. But then I look around the selection of third-raters we are stuck with.
    Nuff said!

  • Greenflag

    In the ranking of 200 countries that are listed in the Tranparency International’s public sector corruption index Italy ranks 68th that’s 38 places beneath Botswana in Southern Africa and also 30 places behind some of the emerging Eastern European democracies such as Slovenia ,Czech Republic and Poland .For comparison Ireland ranks 19th and was formerly as high as 14th .The UK is I believe in the 15 to 20 area with the USA 22nd . The leading least corrupt public sector countries are as usual the Scandinavians -the Australians and Singapore among others. Greece is somewhere in the 80’s Somalia , Afghanistan , Zimbabwe and Iraq are of course at the bottom of the list . .

    As it’s Friday a lighter hearted view of Berlusconi is aired by one Dylan Moran .

    The subtitles are in Italian for the non cognoscenti of English

  • Out of the early morning airwaves I heard a Berlusconi acolyte say of Beppe Grillo’s candidates, “These people have no experience of government.”

    Which translates as “if experienced experts like us Berlusconisti could almost crash the Italian economy (is government anything else now but money and how non-money issues will effect money) what would inexperienced people like the clown and his gang do to it.”

    Oh dear, where else have I noticed such cynical corruption in high places articulated by awesome levels of personal incompetence and a leader “with no case to answer” (when he can pull that one off). It’s a good thing that Italy does not have to service a peace process, or Berlusconi would never have seen the inside of a courtroom!

    And Greenflag, are we not lucky that Norn Iron is not ranked, being a province rather than a country. I’m sure with our skills we could improve on 15%……

  • Greenflag

    Sean Ui Neill ,

    ‘are we not lucky that Norn Iron is not ranked, being a province rather than a country. ‘

    Northern Ireland along with Scotland , and Wales is ranked with the UK .Whether a separate ranking for NI would improve or disimprove it’s ranking I would not comment on . The Republic’s ranking has decreased in recent years and we all know why . So too has the USA’s .

    And yes ‘experience ‘ has been overrated .An experienced thug is still a thug . I would like to believe that ‘thugs ‘ can be removed from politics but alas it seems to be one of the required traits for the profession . Thugs in suits have destroyed more of the world economy in the past 5 years than the entire planet’s total of convicted criminals , burglars , thieves etc etc have in the past two centuries 🙁

    And the vast majority have avoided the inside of a courtroom.’

    You rob a bank -you go to jail . A bank robs you and it makes a deal with the Government . Large corporations steal billions and they are ‘fined ‘ so they avoid court and jail time .

    Justice ?

    Here’s a link to the latest Transparency International Public sector corruption rankings -there may be some changes to the figures I quoted above ( No memory as good as faded ink )


  • Sorry Greenflag, lazy me on a late night posting. Yes, of course we were ranked with the UK.

    And thank you for the Transparency International Public sector corruption rankings!!!!

    I’m developing a weakness for Beppe if only because everyone else seems so contemptious of him. As my recently dead old friend Bob Godfrey (“Roobard,” “Henry’s Cat” and “Kama Sutra Rides Again”) used to say, no one takes amateurs seriously, even if they have all the passion,and professionalism is important but very overrated. He described himself as an Amatapro.

    On 8/9/2007, Beppe had a “V‑Day Celebration.” “V” stands for “vaffanculo,” which is refreshing politics even if it reminds me of “Ne Me Frego.”

    But whosoever wins or looses, it will still be the Bankers (thugs in suits) that have all the legit parties (mugs in suits) well under control so the high priests of ‘mámóna’ can continue their nightmare version of sucking us all dry as in the Battery scene in Matrix, and that via the debts we all oh so willingly take on. Ah well, back to my Marcuse………

  • anne warren

    Surveys show many Italians still havent made up their minds or are not saying. Berlusconi is reported to be below 15% and the 5 Star Movement on 16-20% of votes. Supporters come from all age-groups and are basically people who feel they and their country has been betrayed by the corruption of all Italian parties, by laws which favour corruption and disdain ordinary people and what they may want.
    If the figures are true the outcome of the general election will certainly make a big difference in the Italian parliament. It could lead to quarrels with “austerity” proponents and even a re-run of the election within a few months.
    We’ll see on Monday evening.

  • Hello Annie!

    I’m sorry to have excised one word from your most pertinent quote to make my point:

    “their country has been betrayed by the corruption of all …… parties, by laws which favour corruption and disdain ordinary people and what they may want.”

    Now where does that sound like?

    I wonder how Beppe’s five stars would look on a flag over Belfast City Hall and Stormont?

    Just for balance, I should mention that I have also found some honest, concerned MLAs over the last few years. But as the exception……

  • anne warren

    Italy seems to be ungovernable!!

    The Centre-Left group (Democratic party+left-wing ecology) got 29.2% of the vote.
    The right wing parties (Mr Berlusconi and friends) got 28.7%.
    And the 5 star Movement got 26.1%

    How any party is going to form a coalition or a government is an enigma.

    Are new elections looming on a not too distant horizon?

    PS Only 1 Italian in 10 voted for Mr Monti and his coalition – which shows just how popular Austerity is!