What exactly is going on in the weird and wonderful world of Italian politics? As a general rule, confused and confusing are two words which tend to sum up politics in Italy rather succinctly, but recently the situation has become even more bewildering.
As you might know, Italy’s technocrat government run by the non-elected Mario Monti was recently toppled by the antics of ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. It was Berlusconi who was forced to step aside to allow Monti take hold of Italy’s reins as many feared the Italian stallion was about to leap into the great default abyss.
Monti’s manoeuvres do appear to have allayed fears of Italy doing a Greece, and Italians, unlike the Spanish, have not yet attempted to lynch their politicians. Yes, there have been and still are anti-austerity protests going on in Italy, and many are happening in Rome. While most of Europe seems to love Monti for stabilizing wobbly Italy, Italians themselves are not overly happy with the consequences of what Monti and his technocrat team have been trying to do. Italians are feeling the pain in their bank accounts. Unemployment is rising, taxes are becoming even more painful and the economy is going nowhere fast. All good enough reasons for Silvio Berlusconi to wade in and say enough is enough – Italians can take no more of Monti’s medicine, which, according to the man who did the same, was taking Italy to the edge of an abyss: Goodbye Mario.
Abyss – the Sequel
Nobody is really sure whether the abyss Berlusconi mentioned is the same as the one he was leading Italy towards, or another one. Perhaps this new abyss was caused by earthquakes in early 2012? Who knows. Anyway, an abyss is an abyss and falling into one is not a great thing to do.
Anti-abyss Berlusconi, after saying Monti was bad for Italy, then confirmed his intention to stand for election once again and Europe panicked. The Monday after Berlusconi announced his return, Italy’s financial markets crashed and the spread, which in Berlusconi’s eyes means little, widened. For a moment, it looked as if Italy was about to start heading for the abyss Berlusconi had been leading Italy towards, in between bunga bunga parties, in late 2011. Then it all became surreal.
Stranger and Stranger
Now, Berlusconi, who, you will remember effectively kicked Monti out by withdrawing support for his merry band of technocrats, wants Monti back. It becomes stranger. Berlusconi says he will cease to propose himself for re-election if Monti says he’ll come back and lead Italy once more, only this time, Monti would lead an elected group of technocrats and politicians. Monti has remained coy so far, and has not embraced Berlusconi’s, er, kind offer.
Meanwhile, Berlusconi has started campaigning and subjected viewers of a talk show on one of his own channels to an hour long monologue on what he wants to do, if Italy should decide to elect him once more. Italy’s magistrates came in for the usual battering and an unpopular property tax which Berlusconi had eliminated and Monti had reinstated, would once again be abandoned – though only on Italians’ first houses. Many Italians have more than one house and the new IMU tax introduced by Monti has been denting the wallets of many multi-home owning Italians greatly.
Berlusconi Wants Monti
It does look as if Berlusconi would now like to become a Monti ally, even if Monti, who was not too happy with being toppled, might not be too happy to join forces with the tanned media magnate. Then there is the question surrounding Berlusconi’s, slowly disintegrating, PdL party. Some members of this political party are on the point of leaving and, guess what, yes, they too want to be friends with Monti.
Italy’s right, such that it is, is running around like a headless chicken. Actually, it’s not entirely clear whether a right leaning group of politicians really exists. What might happen, and this is no more than a guess, is that Mario Monti may become the face of a new Italian right wing, albeit a moderate one. What role Berlusconi will play in the Monti party, should it ever materialise, is not at all clear, but Berlusconi is determined not to be left on the sidelines. Just to be sure, Berlusconi’s supposed successor, one Angelino Alfano, is also being proposed as a Monti friend. This is presumably so Berlusconi can have his own fly on the wall, should the worst come to the worst and Berlusconi find himself left out in the political cold. The subservient Alfano could act as a kind of spy and will ensure Berlusconi can keep tinkering from a distance. Only Mario Monti is not a huge fan of this particular Berlusconi minion seeing as it was Alfano who announced in parliament that Berlusconi’s PdL party no longer wanted to support Monti’s government.
When Monti’s government collapsed, chaos ensued and Monti had to run around convincing all and sundry that the situation was not quite as bad as it looked. Luckily for Italy, this appears to have happened and the financial markets and the dreaded spread have largely got over their bout of Berlusconi comeback induced terror.
Monti Rumors Mounting
Rumors floating around now suggest that Monti may be in the process of drawing up an electoral list. In other words, Mario Monti may be about to jump head-first into the crazy world of Italian politics, even if polls indicate that although he has a 45% approval rating, only around 10% of Italians would vote for his list. While it’s not that clear how many Italians believe in Monti, some do accept he has been doing what needed to be done.
Rumors are a fundamental aspect of Italy’s politics, and it is extremely difficult to predict whether the Monti to become a politician rumor will become reality. Will Silvio Berlusconi be on the magical Monti list? Who knows, but this could be why Berlusconi, after hitting Monti with an upper cut, is trying to help him off the ropes.
Well, politics is politics and attacks are not always personal, except when they are.
Confused and Confusing, as Ever
For the moment, Italian politics will remain exactly as it always has been: confused and confusing.
Italy’s Left? Maybe Monti, Maybe Not
And in the left corner is Italy’s left which may win February elections, and has also hinted that Mario Monti may playing a part. The hint then transformed into a kind of denial. Italy’s left appears to have realised that Monti does not lean to the left, but might want Monti playing a part regardless. Monti brings credibility and any government which manages to garner the support of the technocrat turning politician may well benefit from his involvement which will keep many in Europe content.
Roll on the roller-coaster!