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Lover’s Tiff in Italy

Gianfranco Fini, Berlusconi’s number two, has been grumbling about Berlusconi’s management of Italy for some time.  Last week, Fini’s dissent came to a very public head. The Fini/Berlusconi relationship within the “Party of Love” does not look too amorous at the moment.

Fini argued openly with his boss at a party conference last week, after having threatened earlier on to form a breakaway group within Berlusconi’s government.  This, Fini did.

The Italian media widely reported the acrimonious spat, although, in typical Berlusconi fashion, Italy’s Prime Minister later stated that he never argues with anyone.

Well, I have seen the Fini-Berlusconi spat, and it sure looked like a full blown argument to me!

So what are Fini’s beefs with Mr B?

Nothing New

Tiff, discussion, or whatever anyone wants to call it, reading between the lines, Fini accused his master of being contradictory, and of making laws to suit the media mogul’s own personal aims.  That was not all, Fini commented on Berlusconi’s use of his own family paper to attack those who oppose him.  Fini knows something about this, as he has been criticised by the Berlusconi house organ, Il Giornale a few times.

At the end of the day, all Fini did was to reiterate what people in Italy have been saying about Berlusconi over the last few years.  If anything, Fini’s comments served to confirm what has been said.

Then there is the Northern League factor.

Too Cozy With the Northern League

Bossi's Padania
Bossi's Padania

As some will know, Berlusconi’s government is a coalition and one of the members is the small, but vociferous Lega Nord – Northern League.  The Northern League, led by one Umberto Bossi, wants Italy’s hard working north to be able to manage itself, and, to reduce the influence of central government.

Really, and as I have written before, see Federalismo – federalism in Italy; Bossi wants to split Italy into a few more or less autonomous chunks.   Indeed, one of the reforms on the cards in Italy, is something called ‘fiscal federalism’.  This form of federalism, which is some way away from Bossi’s original desire for full blown federalism, would give Italian regions much greater control over tax income raised within their territories.

This would mean that instead of the taxpayers cash ending up in Rome’s coffers, it would go directly to the Italian regions who would then decide how the money is spent.  It’s not a bad idea really, as it may encourage Italy’s under-performing organised crime ridden southern regions to get their acts together.  There is, however, the risk that Italy’s south would end up becoming even more chaotic than it is at present.  This is what Fini fears.

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Fini thinks that Berlusconi, in heeding the demands of the Northern League, is ignoring the wishes of the Italian population as a whole.  He has a point, in that the Northern League only represents a little over 8% of Italy’s electorate, based on the results of the 2008 general elections in Italy.

Po-Faced Berlusconi

During the party conference at which Fini publicly voiced his concerns, Berlusconi’s po-face demonstrated his feelings towards Fini’s dissent.  But Berlusconi revels in crises like these, and is very effective at managing them.

For the moment, Berlusconi is ignoring the concerns of his number two, and forging ahead with a raft of reforms.  Whether these “reforms” will reform anything for the better in Italy is another question entirely.  Anyway, it remains to be seen whether Fini and his group of supporters will be able to block Berlusconi’s reforms, which include the Northern League’s fiscal federalism baby, or whether Fini’s manoeuvres will provoke the call of early general elections in Italy.  Anything is possible, but one can be certain that Silvio Berlusconi will be exploring just how he can either rein-in or destroy Fini.

Expect a few revelations on Fini’s political past to come out in the wash in the next few weeks in Italy.

Meanwhile the Crisis Bites

While Italy’s political bigs thrash out their differences, Italy’s businesses continue to suffer.  A report in today’s La Repubblica contained a long list of Italian companies which are laying off employees, or are considering de-localising their activities to cheaper countries, such as China.

Names which caught my eye in the La Repubblica piece, were Bialetti, a maker of Italy’s ubiquitous moka coffee pots and aerospace giant, Alenia which forms part of the AgustaWestland group.

Reform is desperately needed in Italy, but not necessarily the kinds of reforms Silvio Berlusconi has in mind.  Just ask Emma Marcegaglia, the head of Italy’s Confindustria employers’ federation, who continues to bay for real reforms.

Perhaps Berlusconi should pay more heed to Marcegaglia than to Bossi?  In which case frustrated Fini might kiss and make up, thus bringing the lovers tiff to an end.

Further reading:

La Repubblica, April 25th 2010 Alenia chiude a Brindisi, Basell a Terni
Electrolux prevede 300 posti in meno a Forlì
– Alenia closes in Brindisi, Basell in Terni, Electrolux forcasts 300 job cuts at Forli – in Italian

Financial Times,  April 8th 2010: Italy needs deep reform, employers’ body say

More on Umberto Bossi:

BlogfromItaly, August 19, 2009:  August Arguments in Italy

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