Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Italian Elections Round-up- January 24th, 2006

by de Gondi Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 03:26:28 AM EST

"It's a matter that concerns the Italians and therefore I don't want to interfere. But I do hope that not far from now the Italian people will decide to consign Berlusconi to history's trash bin from which he should never have emerged."
Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, January 21st (translated from the Italian)

The elections in Italy promise to be explosive

The  Italian election campaign is in full swing long before it officially begins. General elections are set for the April 9th, approximately in eighty days, although with Berlusconi one never knows. He is understandably irritated over President Ciampi's veto of the Pecorella law which would have automatically cancelled one of his trials, presently on appeal, as well as thousands of other trials.

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob

Over the weekend, Berlusconi declared  that he wanted to postpone the end of the legislature for two weeks to get the job done. This is read as a desire to ramrod the Pecorella law over Ciampi's veto and modify the par condicio law. Par condicio laws, or laws of "fair treatment" in the media for all political parties, are common to most parliamentary democracies. Perhaps the USA is the only exception to the rule among advanced democracies. Berlusconi has made it clear that if the President does not accept his aut-aut, he'll force the parliament to stay open to the last possible date and postpone elections to May. He used a popular variety show to make his statement.

The date had already been agreed to last December by all parties and institutional figures for sound and urgent reasons. Italy is in need of a fresh government with a new popular mandate to affront the economic crisis and European deadlines. Since last year when Berlusconi's coalition suffered the worst electoral defeat in the Republic's history, losing 19 regions to the opposition, Berlusconi has been little more than a rabid lame duck. Further, Ciampi's septennat comes to term in May. The president in Italy is elected by the parliament. Were general elections to be held in May this would create an unprecedented constitutional void. No parliament, no president. (Considering the behaviour of this legislature, the absence of the former could be welcomed as a blessing.) The only institutional way out of the situation is to vote in April as early as possible.

If all goes well, Berlusconi's disastrous legislative regime will end this coming Sunday. Keep the champagne cool but don't bet too heavily on it.

The Great Never-Ending Wire-tapping Saga

Last July wire-tapping transcripts of on-going investigations were published in several national papers, including most notably il Giornale, Berlusconi's flagship paper. Berlusconi immediately proposed harsher laws to curtail revelations of investigative secrets and all but render court-ordered wire-tapping ineffectual for most investigations. Fortunately, his law did not get through parliament as of this date.

On January 2nd, Berlusconi's il Giornale once again published leaks of a wire-tapped conversation, this time between the Secretary of the DS, Piero Fassino, and Giovanni Consorte, ex-head of Unipol, under investigation for a number of crimes such as insider trading, fraud and rigging.

Berlusconi and his allies immediately expressed solidarity to Fassino. Berlusconi's Minister of Justice, Roberto Castelli, immediately sent ministerial inspectors to the Milan Procura. Berlusconi once again announced that his proposed law on wire-taps should be converted into law.

The Milan Procura opened an investigation. Within a matter of hours the Procura had concluded that they had nothing to do with the leaks, other than order the taps on Consorte's phones. The interceptions had been carried out by the Guardia di Finanza, the Treasury police. All taps that had been deemed irrelevant to the investigation had been ordered to be destroyed by the Procura. Apparently, copies had been made of the transcripts.

A close reading of the tape without the insinuating commentary of il Giornale reveals nothing more than a banal conversation about the BNL OPA. After a fugitive sign of solidarity, Berlusconi and his primetime media exploited the interceptions to accuse Fassino and the center-left of being corrupt, insinuating that they were involved in rigging the deck for the prospective takeover.

In a stunning scoop last Friday, il Corriere della Sera detailed a dramatic scene during the weekly Copaco audition. The Copaco is the parliamentary oversight committee for secret services, known abroad for its utter lack of initiative in the Niger Uranium forgeries. It's auditions are secret. Senator Massimo Brutti of the DS (left Democrats) took the floor and bluntly advised the secret services to stick strictly to their institutional role and stay away from the political debate. He implied that there were well-founded indications that deviated members or groups within the services may have a hand in the wire-tapping escapade:“The exhortation that I wish to communicate through your good offices [Censis] to the Italian Intelligence as a whole is very simple: Stay clear of the Council President’s dossier. Keep out of this turbid campaign ... and the political conflict it has caused. This goes for all of the offices that serve the Republic and have the obligation to say “no” to whomever asks them to violate their institutional duties.”

The day after, the center-right launched an counter-offensive of postured indignation and sarcasm. Berlusconi made a speech in Florence in which he menaced to take legal action against the DS and the major opposition daily, l'Unità, through the Government Prosecutor (Avvocatura di Stato), for having accused him of being the mastermind behind the wire-tapping scheme. L'Unità had never mentioned Berlusconi personally in their article. And l'Unità was not the only newspaper that day (January 21st) to put the story prominently on the front page.

Today, January 24th, the Copaco committee will hold an audience. General Pollari, ex-head of the Guardia di Finanza, is expected to testify on Brutti's warnings. Given his precedents in the Niger affair and his numerous crackpot interviews over the years, there is not much to expect from him.

On the contrary, the head of the Cesis (oversight agency for all intel Services), Emilio Del Mese, may be harsher. During the Telekom Serbia 2003 smear campaign, Del Mese bluntly warned the directors of the Sismi, Pollari, and the Sisde, Mori, to watch out for professional information manipulators, to use these "deviated contacts" with "extreme prudence" and only if circumstances rendered it "strictly necessary." His letter of September 2003  to the two directors alluded to reports that sources (agents) "had already entered into contact with sectors of intelligence with the aim to foster deviant activity with respect to the institutional functions of the Services."

The systematic use of false dossiers and parliamentary commissions by the Berlusconi coalition to smear and harass their supposed enemies (the opposition) is nothing new. We are looking forward to listening to the one thousand nine hundred and forty two purloined wire-taps, preferably with the entertaining comments of Berlusconi's reporters.


Wikipedia has an informative article on the 2006 Italian general elections for anyone unfamiliar with Italian politics and the protagonists. I'll report on events and sideshows related to the elections and do hope that others will join me in this effort.

Thanks for this.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 02:58:29 AM EST
strikes again...

how fortunate we are to have you here.

when i think of yearning for something like dkos for us euros 3 years ago, and now here we are; i am blessed indeed.

keep digging, doc!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 04:37:07 AM EST
Thanks for encouragement. I agree with you whole heartedly on dKos. I discovered the site thanks to the Kaufax awards, coupled with my anger over the utter lack of coverage of the Giuliana Sgrena kidnapping. Fortunately I found great reporting there on the Calipari murder by Gilgamesh, Venice Ca, Donna in Roma and many others.

I think SCOOP format has enormous potential. One could create iad hoc nternational investigative teams to target leads for example, something that is becoming increasingly difficult for large news services due to costs. Over the past five years many foreign desks have pulled out of Rome. The coverage here has suffered accordingly.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 04:54:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Over the past five years many foreign desks have pulled out of Rome. The coverage here has suffered accordingly."
Is that a bad thing? The less people around the world can see the shameful farce italian politics have become, the better. Look at your (very good and detailed) post: there isn't a single policy item being discussed, it's all about scandals and infighting all over again, with even the (really distasteful) return of state-sponsored dirty ops. Sigh.
by toyg (g.lacava@gmail.com) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 07:20:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I understand what you mean, but isn't it the more what goes on is hidden from the outside world, the more freedom there is to cheat, lie, swindle, rig justice and elections, etc? Showing the world what's happening seems to me to be the right thing to do.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 03:02:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are absolutely right, I was just reacting to the sad state of things.
by toyg (g.lacava@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 06:14:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The less people around the world can see the shameful farce italian politics have become, the better.

sigh, i agree with you -che figuraccia!
on the other hand some, maybe even most italians want to participate in the global debates without this evil albatross around their collective neck.

judging from how many moneyed elite from america have holiday/retirement homes here, i'd bet italy is being largely run through remote control, as it has been since ww2.

my most bizarre massage call ever came to a castle, rented at $30, 000 per week, by a bunch of repugs right after the 2000 convention, all relaxing and living high like a bunch of raffles-era colonialists.

the woman's voice over the telephone was so offensively arrogant i had declined the job twice, till she upped the price to $2000 for an hour.

my curiosity conquered my 'repug'nance (!), and i went, even overnighted, so i could toss in a freebie the next morning.

the dinner conversation was the most awkward, stilted and boring i have ever had the misfortune to have listened to.

truly telling, the view into the fishbowl from up close.

surprisingly, she actually did pay!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 07:39:37 AM EST
red ken has more charisma than rutelli, d'alema and prodi all rolled together.

i wish he would interfere!

does anyone think that the left are shy (in america too) of clarifying a platform, so as not to have it repulped, misconstrued and spun by a bought media?

a real populist, democratic, socially just platform should be able to stand up to that, methinks.

what's so difficult to understand for pinco pallino?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 07:46:47 AM EST
The apparent timidity of the Italian centre-left leaders upsets me, too. And they don't have to look to London if they want a model - they should remember Puglia's elections.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 07:57:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Puglia election was a breath of fresh air for all of us here. It confirmed that the civic indignation behind the girotondi movement is very much alive. There is a general tendency in Italy to put more trust in civic lists and a new generation of politicians, both young and old. The inventor of Tiscali, Soru, now governor of Sardinia, comes to mind, or the coffee mogul, Illy, in Veneto.

A poll just published in the Corriere today shows that over 30% of Italian voters trust civic lists over traditional parties. Civic lists may play a crucial role in these elections.

Like many, I find the center-left very irritating. There are so many tendencies within the coalition that it appears the leaders bend over to please everyone. There is shameless pandering to Craxi nostalgics, overtures to shady autonomists in Sicily, cheek rubbing with reactionary Vatican rastas. Hell, go out and get a clear-cut identity, as you say, like Vendola, Soru or Zapatero.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 03:58:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, this trend is short-sighted at best, because local figures seldom grow to have a national profile. The previous attempts (the "Clean Hands" era that gave us Cacciari from Venice, Bassolino from Naples etc) have been completely nullified by "the usual suspects" (D'Alema and his cohort of deluxe stalinists, that has rightfully taken a beat from the recent scandals involving Unipol). The biggest leftist party, DS, is completely "owned" by D'Alema's people, and they won't let people like Bassolino or (ex-trade union general secretary, now running the city council in Bologna) Sergio Cofferati take too much space. This is comparable to the McAuliffe/Clinton era of the Democratic Party. We need an Howard Dean as soon as possible!
by toyg (g.lacava@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 06:26:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll agree that D'Alema very much dominates the DS, but must point out that he is not personally involved in the Unipol scandal, nor the Lodi Bank scandal.

This belief (I think the current English word is "meme") is a product of Berlusconi's extraordinary propaganda machine with the help, in this case, of the Corriere della Sera. In D'Alema's case, an article was published by the Corriere that revealed he had a bank account with the Banca Popolare di Lodi to pay installments on a boat. The article was published prominently on the same page that carried articles about the Lodi scandal. Nothing more to it than an invasion of privacy. He threatened to sue the Corriere and may have done so.

As far as the Unipol scandal goes, there is still no proof  nor current investigations that high ranking members of the DS are involved despite months of investigation of ex-Director Consorte's movements.

This contrasts with the Lodi Bank scandal which has alleged collusion with high ranking members of the government as well as prominent politicos in Forza Italia, Lega Nord and Allianza Nazionale.

Berlusconi's propaganda machinery has been very effective in diverting attention from his personal alleged criminal activity to non-existent criminal activity by members of the opposition parties.

As I pointed out in a recent comment somewhere, this will follow an established pattern. If Berlusconi or members of his government or party are incriminated for the Lodi scandal, Berlusconi will once again accuse the judges of being politically motivated communists who emit clockwork arrest warrants and turn a blind eye on the "crimes" of the opposition.

What can be reproached to the leaders of the DS is a lack of political acumen in backing the Unipol/ Coop OPA. But then I don't see why one should cave into Berlusconi's smear campaigns and act on the defensive. We are dealing with a brilliant and ruthless strategist who will stop at nothing to stay in power. It's asymmetrical warfare.

Of course if someone in the DS does get incriminated, I'll have no problems bringing it up here.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 25th, 2006 at 08:19:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have been a member of DS, so I know a things or two about inner workings :) Unipol is an integral part of the "cooperative system" (I could have said "movement" a few years ago, but nowadays it's just another system of economical and power forces). This is a fact. The "cooperative system" has a strong relationship with the DS, to the point of sharing or directly owning many of the structures previously owned by P.C.I. and renting them back to DS for nominal fees, etc etc. This is a fact. Over the years, the D'Alema-led "buro-stalinist" wing of the DS has been extremely effective in placing the right men in the right roles, to the point that any internal opponent will not be able to gain enough support from key organisations inside and OUTSIDE the party. This is another fact. Consorte is one of those men. Notice where I said "D'Alema and his cohort"; Consorte is part of that cohort, a group of power-hungry individuals currently strangling the only serious political party in Italy. I have my axe to grind, I admit :) however, I can't really complain that these people are taking a beat for once. I would personally kick them out of the party for good, right away, starting from "Massimino" and ending up with that complete tool, Piero Fassino. They will lose the next election in *exactly* the same way Occhetto did after Mani Pulite, because they think they won already. I will obviously vote for them, because the only chance to win the electoral college for foreign residents is to concentrate votes against the better-placed right-wing parties. But they are scum and should go anyway.
by toyg (g.lacava@gmail.com) on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 09:33:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the input. I'm looking forward to further posts, even diaries, on your part concerning these crucial elections.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 05:38:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this, and the upcoming series!

It looks like Hugary and Italy will have turbulant elections at the same time, tough my right-wingers (who learnt much from Berlusconi on nasty campaign methods) are currently in opposition.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 07:55:48 AM EST
I just had to drop a line: thanks...

I second others here when I say that I expect you full swing during the elections....

I will stay tune!!!


A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue Jan 24th, 2006 at 03:42:43 PM EST

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]