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.