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Italian Politics – Chaos as Usual

Sparks are flying right, left, centre and everywhere in the confusingly complex and chaotic world of Italian politics.

Last week, the speaker of Italy’s senate overruled a decision not to pursue a civil action for damages against Silvio Berlusconi in connection with allegations that he’d bribed a senator. This caused much annoyance in Berlusconi Forza Italia party circles even if time barring provisions in Italian law will probably mean the case is unlikely to reach a conclusion. Despite this, the fact that the senate speaker decided to file a case against their leader led to calls for the speaker’s resignation. Upholding the law is not at all popular in Italy.

Hot on the heels of the senate civil action, Berlusconi’s people were rather unhappy to hear claims that their leader had been ousted in late 2011 as a result of a kind of plot to have him removed. Central to the plot theory is the suspicion that Italy’s President Napolitano had been lining up Mario Monti to take over from Berlusconi a few months before he was ‘deposed’. It has long been suspected that Berlusconi’s demise had been engineered, though there had been little proof.

UPDATE: 12 February, 2014 – Rumours flying around Italy’s press suggest that moves are afoot to replace Italy’s prime minister Enrico Letta with PD party leader Matteo Renzi.

Italy’s president has apparently given his blessing to the change-over, though Letta is proving reluctant to give up Italy’s helm.  To save his skin, today Letta will attempt to convince the coalition government he leads that he has concrete plans for the future. Many believe, though, that it’s only a matter of time before he’s ousted in favour of Renzi. If Renzi does end up leading Italy’s government he’ll be the third unelected leader since Silvio Berlusconi was deposed in late 2011.

Renzi, should he end up in charge, will attempt to set the reform ball rolling – something none of his predecessors have been able to do.

News of the change over, or not, should come out either today or within a week or so.

Update end.

Theories A Go-Go

One theory floating around was that the EU requested Berlusconi’s removal on the basis that his mismanagement of Italy could have toppled Italy’s economy into an abyss and that Europe’s and, maybe, the world’s economy could have gone belly up as a consequence.

Another conspiracy theory, which is covered by the Zero Hedge site, claims that Berlusconi was brought down in a kind of bloodless coup engineered by conspiratorial bankers – many of whom, such as Mario Monti, ECB boss Mario Draghi, appear to have belonged to the Goldman Sachs clan.

Yet another theory; yes, there are a few, goes that Italy’s President Napolitano was worried about Italy’s credibility owing to the never ending legal woes of Berlusconi. That Berlusconi ended up charged with having sex with an under-age prostitute  – the infamous Ruby bunga bunga case – may have been the straw which broke the camel’s back and led to Napolitano considering alternatives. The only problem is that Napolitano is not supposed to interfere with the political running of Italy and if it is ever proved he did, he could end up facing impeachment charges. This is something Berlusconi’s people are probably considering at this very moment.

Impeach the President!

On the subject of impeaching Italy’s President, the Beppe Grillo run Five Star Movement did attempt to bring an action for impeachment against Napolitano, but a parliamentary committee decided there were not enough grounds for such an action to proceed.

The case has now been dropped, except a new one may be launched by irate Berlusconi supporters – if Berlusconi lets them head off down such a path. Whether he will is open to question.

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With his legal problems, Berlusconi might harm his own situation by ordering an impeachment action against Napolitano. Then there is the fact that Napolitano may simply roll over and resign – he’s no spring chicken and indicated that he did not intend seeing out his full seven year term anyway. In theory, Berlusconi could attempt to force Napolitano out but he’d only do this if he thought Napolitano could be replaced with a more Berlusconi-friendly president and this, so far, does not look too likely. We’ll see.

Lifeless Letta

Aside from the irritation of the Berlusconi mob, there’s the sticky position Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta now finds himself in. Almost everybody seems to think Letta is next to useless and as a result of his dawdling, Italy risks burning.

The head of Italy’s Confindustria employer’s association has as good as told Letta to pull his finger out and pass some reforms or else he’ll go speak to President Napolitano.

How long lifeless Letta can hang on is anyone’s guess but there are fears that his government may fall, or worse, that it’ll continue drifting for a few years yet to the detriment of Italy’s hobbling economy.

Recent reports by Italy’s ISTAT official statistics bureau indicated that the recovery of Italy’s industry is anaemic to say the least. Italians are suffering too with a reported 25% suffering significant financial hardship – this, of course, may explain why Italy’s consumers are not consuming.

The Pretender

Pretender to the throne of Italy, well, the position of Prime Minister, centre-left leader Matteo Renzi, though not actually in Italy’s parliament, is attempting to push though electoral law reforms presumably with the intention of sparking elections.

While Renzi believes he can win, this is not a given and wily Berlusconi is already working out how he can use the new law to his advantage and propel his party to power once more.

It’s unlikely Berlusconi will end up as prime minister seeing as he’s been banned from politics for a while after having been expelled from Italy’s parliament for his tax fraud conviction.

If the Berlusconi faction does manage to win power once more, then pulling all the strings in the background will be Berlusconi himself. It is not yet clear who would be Italy’s prime minister should this scenario become reality though Berlusconi is said to be preparing one of his family for election to Italy’s prime ministerial seat.

The Future? Stable Government, but Inept Politicians?

Therein lies another aspect of the forthcoming electoral law reform: while it may allow Italy to end up with a stable government, the quality of whatever government Italy may end up with is likely to be questionable. Sadly, Italy risks ending up with governments formed by politicians who are incapable of steering Italy in a productive direction or who are corrupt, possibly both. In other words, the electoral law reform may not help Italy at all.

Five Star Shenanigans

Also stirring up things in the wonderfully warped world of Italian politics is the Five Star Movement which has been getting itself in trouble for causing trouble in Italy’s parliament and one member of the movement is in hot water for claiming that female members of the centre-left PD party used their womanly assets to end up in positions of power. In the eyes of some voters in Italy, the Five Star Movement is too immature to be considered an alternative to Berlusconi or the PD people, though both of the old-guard factions are clearly worried that Beppe Grillo’s movement could do rather well in the event of elections.

Much more fuss about Five Star Movement antics is being made in the Berlusconi friendly and PD friendly press camps than their actions really warrant, so one suspects attempts are being made to sideline Grillo and his people. The trouble is that some Italians have realised what is going on and this may earn more votes than the mud slinging is supposed to prevent. Moreover, the actions of the old guard parties do seem to confirm Beppe Grillo’s oft repeated claim that the Berlusconi PDL now Forza Italia 2, and the Partito Democratico centre-left party are one and the same animal. There’s evidence to support Grillo’s assertions. More on this another time.

Chaotic, isn’t it? Same old, same old and Italy goes nowhere. Such a pity.

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