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Italian Politics Today, as Messy as Ever

Heading in a better direction?

Italian politics today is proving a messy as ever. Italy’s President Napolitano is busily trying to cobble together a new government for Italy. At first he gave the task to center-left leader Pierluigi Bersani and nominated him prime minister designate.

Bersani called all the major Italian political parties in for a series of meetings but got nowhere. President Napolitano wanted Bersani to demonstrate that he could form a working majority, but, it seems, Bersani was unable to gather the assurances the president requested.

Today, President Napolitano is trying to resolve the stalemate and, like Bersani, is seeing all the main political factions in an attempt to either sort out a new government or to form some kind of interim technocrat government.

Just who Italy’s next prime minister will be remains unclear. There are also rumors from a Mario Monti whip that elections will soon be on the cards for Italy.

Grillo’s “Belgium Solution”

Beppe Grillo, the leader of the 5 Star Movement, favors the “Belgium Solution” which would entail opening parliament for business but not  placing power in anybody’s hands directly. This would mean that parliament can work and pass legislation. While Grillo’s proposal is acceptable under Italy’s constitution, it’s not clear whether Italy’s president would go for this alternative. Italy’s other political factions probably would not like it either.

Silvio Berlusconi Wants New Elections

Silvio Berlusconi wants to go to the country as soon as possible. He seems to think he can win next time round which would not be too good for Italy in view of Berlusconi’s less than sparkling track record and his legal problems. Incidentally, Berlusconi’s legal problems are being quietly brushed under the already full to bursting Italian national carpet.

Banning Berlusconi from Parliament

Beppe Grillo and center-left leader Bersani would like to pass a conflicts of interest law, or attempt to enforce an existing piece of legislation to render Berlusconi ineligible to stand for election. If this were to happen, Berlusconi’s PdL party would probably cease to exist as Berlusconi is the only glue which holds it together.

Berlusconi and his party stroke fan club won’t be too happy to see their glorious leader taken out of politics.

Italy Needs Reforms

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What is certain is that Italy needs reforms and it needs a parliament to pass them. The more responsible members of Italy’s political classes tend to agree that electoral reform would be a good starting point.

Electoral Reform

One of the first acts of whatever parliament emerges in the next few days or so, if indeed one actually does, will be to pass laws to sort out Italy’s electoral laws. The reform would actually be very simple.

All that has to be done is to apply the majority bonus system to both of Italy’s houses so that whoever wins the most votes ends up with a working majority in both houses. At present, the majority bonus is only applied to Italy’s lower house.

While such a reform sounds simple on virtual paper, getting Italy’s parties to agree to such a change is unlikely to easy as logic, responsibility and common sense are not something Italy’s political classes are known for. Berlusconi’s supporters won’t go for electoral reform which will cause the PdL party to self-destruct.

Had logic, responsibility and common sense been applied, Italy would have had a working government by now, that government would have been led by Bersani.

The President Screamed, but no one listened

Last year, during Mario Monti’s reign, President Napolitano screamed, in his own quiet way, at the mainstream political parties to sort out Italy’s messy electoral law. The parties ignored Napolitano and as a consequence, have dropped Italy in the mess it finds itself now.

The current electoral law was designed by a Berlusconi crony to give Berlusconi and his coalition an electoral advantage, not that the cunning plan worked too well as the indecisive outcome of Italy’s February general elections demonstrated.

In the meantime, Italy’s economy seems to be going from bad to worse. Italy’s national debt is rising to frightening levels too. Businesses are closing and 200,000 graduates simply cannot find work in Italy. Unsurprisingly, Italians are spending less. Making matters even worse is Italy’s ever increasing tax burden. It’s not looking good folks.

Italy should learn sometime this weekend just what, politically, will happen next. Easter is not looking too happy for Italy alas.

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