In the real world, someone the police want to charge with criminal association, money laundering, embezzlement and fraud would be arrested in a flash. Not in Italy. And especially not if you are a cosseted Italian politician and member of parliament.
Before politicians in Italy can be arrested, Italy’s parliament has to go through the whole rigamarole of a vote which may, or may not, “approve” the arrest.
Yesterday, after one almighty battle, Italy’s parliament approved the arrest of Italian member of parliament Francantonio Genovese, who Italy’s police want to charge with criminal association, money laundering, embezzlement and fraud. Shortly after the arrest was given the go-ahead by Italy’s parliament, Genovese handed himself in to police. Somewhat surprisingly, he didn’t even attempt to run away to Lebanon, unlike convicted Berlusconi crony, Marcello Dell’Utri.
As mentioned before, the vote in Italy’s parliament only took place yesterday because of a battle. The combatants were Italy’s anti-establishment 5 Star Movement and Italy’s political old guard, some of whom are not “old”.
Members of the 5 Star Movement called for an immediate vote on the arrest pointing out that someone facing such serious charges was likely to continue breaking the law if allowed to remain free. This, rather obvious, point did not go down at all well with the colleagues of the politician whose arrest was being sought. Indeed, they, the members of Italy’s supposedly slightly less corrupt Partito Democratico party, wanted to delay the vote for as long as they could. And members of Italy’s reputedly much more corrupt Berlusconi led Forza Italia party were more than happy to give their Partito Democratico party chums a helping hand on the vote delaying front.
This untoward state of affairs did not escape the attention of the 5 Star Movement who attacked their overly protective left and right leaning parliamentary collegues with all their might.
In the end 5 Star Movement pressure did the trick and the vote was held in the evening of the very same day. For once, and thanks entirely to the work of the 5 Star Movement, Italy’s parliament failed to protect a member accused of serious crimes. Without their efforts, the vote may have been delayed ad infinitum. The 5 Star Movement also managed to show Italy’s parliament up for what it is: a safe haven for criminals.
Reportedly the vote, which was overwhelmingly in favour of the arrest, only went ahead on the orders of Prime Minister Renzi. Had the vote been delayed, and as he no doubt realised, Italy’s Prime Minister would have been made to look very bad indeed.
On the run up to the European Elections, Italy’s unelected leader could not afford to damage his image and claims that he’s making a break from Italian politics of old as the consequence of delaying the vote would have been a loss of crosses on Euro ballot papers. Unelected Mr Renzi desperately needs the support of votes to legitimise his rapid and ruthless ascent to power.
The incident, however, has left Mr Renzi been with an embarrassing amount of egg on his face seeing as he’s been promising right, left and centre that in his hands Italy’s creaky old corrupt parliament will turn over a new leaf. It did yesterday, though only at the behest of the 5 Star Movement.
The whole affair shows that Italy’s parliament remains highly reluctant to give up its old self-protective ways. The 5 Star Movement who very clearly demonstrated what they have been claiming all the time: that there’s no difference at all between Italy’s old guard left and its old guard right, will most probably have earned more votes for their role.
Yesterday’s victory for the 5 Star Movement was also win for honesty in Italy. Hopefully, the first of many.