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Italy Returns to September Heat

Heading in a better direction?

While most of Italy has been languishing on the beach, the nations’ politicians spent the month of August bickering vociferously over the future of convict Silvio Berlusconi. Sparks have been flying and the battle to save Silvio is not over yet.

Here’s a round-up of the situation surrounding Berlusconi and Italy in general.

Nobody really knows whether or not Berlusconi will actually be banned from politics, at least in terms of not allowing him to keep his seat in Italy’s senate and then not allowing him to stand for election for around 6 years or so.

The tanned one himself and his clan have been exploring lots of Save Silvio solutions, but, despite their efforts, it’s looking as if the leader of the PdL party may end up being kicked out of Italy’s senate this September. The 9th of this month is the date when a vote should be held on whether or not to let convicted tax evader Berlusconi stay in Italy’s senate.

Initially, Berlusconi tried to blackmail Italy into letting him stay in Italy’s senate by implying that if he’s kicked out, the government, such as it is, will crumble. Berlusconi’s blackmail attempt did appear to be bearing fruit. However, various manoeuvres have been taking place, such as the timely appointment of a handful of Berlusconi unfriendly lifetime senators, and, maybe, Italy’s wobbly government can keep itself afloat, Berlusconi or no Berlusconi.

Nothing is definite though. It is very much a case of seeing is believing and until the senate vote takes place, maybe in September, maybe later, the future of Berlusconi in Italian politics will remain uncertain.

Meanwhile, Italy’s left leaning PD party seems to have finally decided that it really could do with a new leader and maybe, Matteo Renzi, the current Mayor of Florence who has been angling for the leadership of the battered, rudderless, PD party, may get to more or less lead it. If Berlusconi is removed from politics, or at least sidelined, the PD should find it relatively easy to win elections – even if the reputation of the party has been seriously damaged by its open canoodling with Berlusconi and his merry mob.

Although nobody can quite believe it, polls suggest Berlusconi’s PdL party would probably win elections if they were held now. This is possibly because Italians are mighty impressed with Berlusconi’s ability to bend Italy to his will, even if relatively few Italians did actually vote for Berlusconi in the February 2013 elections. Indeed, there is some speculation that the opinion poll results may not be wholly accurate and may have been fiddled to show Berlusconi in a good light. In Italy, this is not beyond the realms of possibility.

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An interesting nugget of news is that the present leader of the Lega Nord party, Roberto Maroni, who is also the governor of Italy’s Lombardy region, has announced his intention to stand down. Maroni wants to hand over the reins to someone who’s not linked to the scandal surrounding the use of Lega Nord party funds for all sorts of illicit schemes. Some of the cash, which comes from public coffers, was used to acquire a rather flash speedboat for one of the sons of ex-leader Umberto Bossi.

The name of one Flavio Tosi, the mayor of Verona has been mentioned as a potential successor to Maroni. Tosi does seem to be relatively moderate for a Lega Nord politician and if anyone can fill in the cracks left by the leadership of the Umberto Bossi clan, it is probably him.

The other contender in the hypothetical election race, Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, appears to be in third place, according to the polls. Poll opinions or not, Grillo himself seems to be rather confident his part, sorry, movement, would do well, electoral reforms or not, if elections were to be called now.

On the subject of electoral reforms, there aren’t any on the horizon, though marginalising Berlusconi and Co might mean actually doing something becomes possible.

Then there’s the To Do Decree, a hotch potch of tweaks which may or may not help revive Italy’s extremely stodgy economy. Youth unemployment is still at record levels, Italy’s businesses and shops are either closing or sneaking off overseas, and the tax burden remains as burdensome as ever. That’s not to mention Italy’s infamous bureaucracy which continues to hinder rather than help.

Italy is still in hot water and the overlords at the EU are well aware of this and are somewhat disconcerted as to how exactly Italy is to find the cash to fund the, albeit temporary, end to the IMU property tax.

Another thing which is far from clear is just what Italy’s parliament will get up to now that the IMU issue has been semi-resolved and Italy has its new To Do decree. Electoral reforms? Maybe. Then there’s the VAT rise which is coming up and which won’t do much good to the already unhealthy state of Italy’s economy.

Yes, September is going to be a hot month economically and politically for Italy. Lots of hot air will be expended, but whether Italy will actually start dragging itself out of the mire towards recovery is anybody’s guess. How much money are you prepared to bet that Italy will head in the right direction? Not much, I’m sure.

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