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The Day After

by de Gondi Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 05:17:48 AM EST

In the aftermath of the Senate debacle, the Italian rightwing has exploded. Berlusconi launched into what he does best by polarizing the situation with baseless accusations against his allies. In his view he's the only one who shouldered the burden of making opposition. Yet his idea of opposition was to demonize the Prodi government as illegitimate. Berlusconi saw himself as invested with a sovereign right to topple the government in the name of the people. He therefore forbid his allies to dialogue with the government as is normal institutional praxis. His approach was entirely destructive without offering an alternative project.

He had fair game with the internal skirmishes of the Prodi coalition. Berlusconi's last minute 2005 electoral law had forced parliamentary bipolarism into a straightjacket. The only possibility to win general elections was to form broad heterogeneous coalitions subject to the blackmail of every possible local phenomena hastily turned into a political party or a power broker.  Further the law was so construed as to make it impossible to have a clear majority in the Senate. The result is the largest government in Italian history in terms of ministers and vice-ministers. In the end the government itself has become a parliament of opposing factions and protagonisms in which the Council President and his staff must mediate and negotiate policy and bills before presenting them to parliament. But unlike parliament the government is not bound by majority rule. In short, a Clemente Mastella, Minister of Justice, who garnered 1,4% of the popular vote can take down the government if he alone doesn't like an article in a bill. To hell with collegiate decisions.

The Center of the Prodi coalition has been the most vociferous in its attacks on the Leftist parties within the coalition. My impression is that the Left has stuck to its principles yet has been very realist in negotiating its aims. It has swallowed many a bitter pill despite being the electoral backbone of the coalition. It's the Left that has the most to loss if it pulls out of the coalition, which may partially explain why it is so heavily attacked or scapegoated by both the Center and Berlusconi. The Center is always up for grabs, the Left not.

Because Berlusconi had radicalized the political setting, the annual budget law passed the Senate with the opposition in disarray, incapable of proposing meaningful debate. It was the first time in six years that a spending bill had passed the Senate without resorting to a confidence vote. Despite Berlusconi's very large margin in the Senate in the previous legislature he always resorted to confidence voting (essentially because his bills were an offence to civilization.)

Berlusconi's neo-ex-allies (Allianza Nazionale, UDC and Lega Nord) have launched an ultimatum that Berlusconi should backtrack by Monday (November 19th) from his sterile war-like behaviour and engage in constructive opposition to the Prodi government. His major allies, Fini and Casini, bluntly lay the blame at his door for the defeat and refuse to accept Berlusconi's insulting remarks against them as political hacks and lazy ne'er-do-wells. Berlusconi had after all insisted on taking on the Philistines all by himself. "'Ghe pensi mi"- "I'll handle it"- like any enterprising boss.

But Berlusconi's tactics were strange as often they were aimed at his own allies. Perhaps because Gianfranco Fini is the only palatable rightwing candidate who would stand a chance against the designated future Left candidate, Walter Veltroni, he opened a front within his own coalition to weaken Fini. Just as he had previously fired Marco Follini as Secretary of the UDC in 2005, he encouraged the break-off of the hard fascist core within Fini's Allianza Nazionale. (He may in the end have done Fini an enormous favour.)

For the past months we've been witness to a crass, obscene campaign against the Senators-for-life, especially Rita Levi Montalcini, Nobel Prize in Medicine, by Francesco Storace. Storace has made a name for himself as a pure, tough fascist implicated in or indicted for political espionage, unlawful intrusion into public archives, falsification of voter lists, corruption and kickbacks in Regional and State Health services and more. Whereas in many nations his curriculum would be a sufficient motivation to induce one to retire from political activity and possibly spend some time in the slammer, in Italy it's a prerequisite to get elected to parliament or to found a party. Which is exactly what Senator Storace did. With Berlusconi once again at the baptismal fount.

It comes as no surprise that Berlusconi would once again bless a fledging fascist party. During the 2006 national elections the extreme right wing was part of his coalition and when Alessandra Mussolini invited him to the first convention of her fascist-chic Social Action Party in March, he was greeted with chants of  "Duce! Fuehrer!" He has declared that he shares their values and principles, that his heart vibrates with theirs. (Repubblica 28.03.2007, page 12; 01.04.2007, page 9) During his five years in office he never attended a Liberation Day Commemoration (April 25th). Sort of like Sarkozy refusing to honour July 14th or Bush July 4th.

It's no wonder Mike Stern organized his speech to the American Congress at the height of the 2006 electoral campaign. Or recently remarked in an interview that Prodi would never have access as Berlusconi did to the America that counts.

Since the Senate debacle Berlusconi has embarked on a highly publicized and anti-institutional crusade against the government and now claims to have garnered over seven million signatures within a matter of hours petitioning for new elections. He has defied his allies and has just launched a new party temporarily known as "il Partito del popolo delle libertà," the Party of the People of Freedoms. His natural allies would be the new fascist party put together by Francesco Storace, "La Destra," that broke away from Fini's Allianza Nazionale last week in a triumph of anti-Semitism, as well as the galaxy of extreme rightwing parties that gravitate around Alessandra Mussolini. The Lega Nord under Bossi would also be an ally. (While Bossi signed the petition, Roberto Maroni will go to see the major leftist political broker, Walter Veltroni, to open discussions on electoral reform.)

Berlusconi's blitzkrieg actions in direct opposition to the institutions seem more in tune with the revolutionary behaviour of D'Annunzio in Fiume or Mussolini's March on Rome. So while D'Annunzio flew his little plane around Dalmatia and Mussolini walked a few yards, Berlusconi has put on an inch of guck, his tummy corset, and captained a boat Saturday on the Roman Tiber.

Just a few weeks ago I lined up to vote in the Democratic Party primaries along with three and a half million Italians. It was a real, tangible event in which each person showed a voter certificate and an identity card after patiently waiting in line. Voting booths were visible and crowded. I have not seen Berlusconi's famous gazebos nor lines of people anywhere. Apparently they are as virtual as Berlusconi's youthful appearance. Evidently, Berlusconi's seven million Italians live on Thule.

What appears to be underrated by commentators on Italian affairs are the symbolic gestures of Berlusconi. It may be profitable to look at him in another light as an extreme rightwing revolutionary.

And that is precisely how institutions are undone. By an incapacity to confront or metabolize rhetoric and actions that negate institutional legitimacy and authority.

Prodi has won once again against Berlusconi and with the sort of eloquent understatement that is more common on Northern shores than Mediterranean. His government however remains at the mercy of centrist micro-parties (the so-called "prefix" parties whose electoral take begins with a zero like Italian telephone prefix numbers, e.g. 0,6%) who have all to loss with an electoral reform. Lamberto Dini, who like all the Senators has no direct popular mandate, is seeking to invent himself a new virtual party to represent the virtual ideals of his non-existent electors. Mastella immediately launched into his tried and weary routine calling for a new government in January. The transition of Italy to a modern dynamic state with stable institutions hangs on the irresponsibility of petty Centrist big shots.

Interesting. How many Senators-for-life are there and how are they appointed?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 08:35:03 AM EST
Senators for life are appointed by the President of the Republic for outstanding merits. Further, all ex-Presidents of the Republic become lifetime Senators. At present there are seven.

The rightwing contests the fact they have a right to vote, but then Senators are senators, not privileged spectators. Senators for life tend to vote for the left.

It goes without saying that it is very rare that a rightwing individual become a Senator for life. Being based on outstanding merit, it's a contradiction in terms.  

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 08:59:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Using the ET Archives (see "By Country" link in Menu box)

Italian Election Day Open Thread | de Gondi:

Lifetime Senators are appointed by the President of the Republic for outstanding merits. Also, all ex-Presidents of the Republic become lifetime Senators.

Italy Elections Open Thread 2.0 | kcurie:

They are
Francesco Cossiga, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, Giorgio Napolitano, Giulio Andreotti, Sergio Pininfarina, Rita Levi Montalcini e Emilio Colombo.

Italy Elections Open Thread 2.0 | toyg:

Scalfaro, Napolitano e Montalcini have strong relationships with the Prodi coalition, so their vote (at least for the initial government creation) will most certainly be casted with the Union. Cossiga is kind of a crazy horse, so you can't really say, but he fell out with Berlusconi a while ago. Andreotti could ask for something in return for his vote, and where he votes Colombo will probably follow. I have no idea about Pininfarina (didn't even know he was a senator!).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 09:11:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Pininfarina is gravely ill and no longer in his senses. Giorgio Napolitano is now president of the Republic, a curious inversion of the beaten path which makes a novel vacancy. He'll be back in a few years.

Giulio Andreotti has usually voted for the government out of the conviction that a government should exercise governance if there's no other choice on the horizon.

Francesco Cossiga is the last step in the evolution of the velociraptor on beenies. He said he would vote for the spending bill only if Prodi formally declared that there will be no parliamentary investigation into the G8 events in Genova in 2001.

To the list add Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, former president of the Republic.

Ciampi, Scalfaro, Levi Montalcini and Colombo regularly vote for the Left.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 09:43:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He said he would vote for the spending bill only if Prodi formally declared that there will be no parliamentary investigation into the G8 events in Genova in 2001.

Huh! What was his public rationale?

By the way, would you have the time to write a diary on how things stand regaring this issue? And I don't just mean the police raid on the school where nonviolent G8 protesters camped, but police tactics re Black Block (wait while they create mayhem, attack peaceful protesters once they ran away), apparent Black Block provocators (who took off their mask and chatted with policemen), Fini's role when he visited the police leadership, etc...

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

by DoDo on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 10:32:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Francesco Cossiga has long since given up on making sense. He's terminally infatuated with his own wit.

There was a massive demonstration in Genova this weekend asking for a parliamentary investigation into G8. There were no incidents. The police kept out of sight, a sign of the times under Manganelli.

The institution of a parliamentary investigation is in the Union program but has been vetoed by the Centrists especially Mastella who has menaced to leave the coalition over it. It's one of the bitter pills the Left has had to swallow. Since it's part of the program, Mastella is going to have to eat crow. Like many Leftist points in the Union program, such as the Italian PACS (called DICO), the promises have been postponed. Prodi's primary concern is to modernize Italy through economic, industrial and consumer reforms. Civil stuff and redress is on the back shelf.

What you've said about the actual incidents in Genova corresponds essentially to fact. Of course, judiciary truths are an entirely different matter.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 01:21:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Today, Berlusconi will officially announce the end of Forza Italia's existence and the constitution of a broad based people's party. Gianfranco Fini declared today that he's not even going to discuss the adhesion of his party to Berlusconi's latest PR gadget. Casini in a televised interview last night spelled out the death of the rightwing coalition as is. The vice-coordinator of Forza Italia, Fabrizio Cicchitto, was whistled down when he tried to speak at an Allianza Nazionale meeting last night.

The government coalition has spent the weekend relaxing.  Prodi has remarked that he intends to wait and see what happens since his sole interest is to get on with his program. The remote possibility that Berlusconi will sit down to discuss reforms is viewed with caution as Berlusconi systematically manipulates negotiations to buy time.

The Public Minister of Milano, Fabio De Pasquale, said today that Berlusconi and the head of Mediaset, Fedele Confalonieri, will be charged with fiscal fraud and cooking the books for a total of 30,9 million euro through the year 2003. The present trial for fiscal fraud was based on evidence through the year 2000. However, Berlusconi had passed a law, the so-called ex-Cirielli, that cut the statue of limitations in half for a series of crimes that for pure coincidence are the same crimes Berlusconi is presently charged with. The new charges are well within the statue of limitations. The law is called ex-Cirielli because the gentleman who wrote it disowned it as it was rendered more execrable in parliament.

A martyr to communist justice, it's a great way to kick off his new personal political entity.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 08:53:13 AM EST
In a press conference this afternoon Berlusconi launched a political entity called "il popolo della libertà" "The people of freedom" party.

In the Milan trial the judge ruled today that the accusations against Confalonieri and Berlusconi are extinguished by the statute of limitations.

De Pasquale intends to press the new charges of fiscal fraud through 2003 against Berlusconi in a new trial. Because there's a six year limit for his crimes, any new trial will get nowhere.

Ya, that's freedom for you, conservative brand.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Nov 19th, 2007 at 01:54:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks to de Gondi for an excellent panorama of recent political movement here in Italy.   It's less important, but perhaps more amusing, to note that Berlusca's campaign against his erstwhile ally Gian Franco Fini (the "respectable" Fascist) may have been set off by a poll which reported Fini to be more popular than Berlusca. Certainly Berlusca's visit to Storace's inaugural party congress was a direct slap at Fini, but even more biting was the lengthy "TV profile" broadcast by "Striscia la Notizia", a satirical TV program transmitted by one of Berlusca's many TV networks.   The profile involved some old footage of Fini's pregnant mistress Elisabetta Tulliani with one of her previous lovers, a Perugia magnate and football club owner, complete with sarcastic commentary. The couple managed to excel the previous record holders for fatuous couplings, film tycoon Vittorio Cecchi Gori and starlet Valeria Marini. For photos  and commentary see

Hannah K. O'Luthon
by Hannah K OLuthon on Tue Nov 20th, 2007 at 10:43:40 AM EST
Thanks very much Hannah, and welcome back. I had commented previously on this saucy aspect of the whole affair. The Berlusconi channels and scandal mags are having a field day with Fini to the point that Confalonieri even apologized to Fini for overdoing it.

Berlusconi uses his media to tear apart enemies. He destroyed Marco Follini with a press campaign- and good deal of the negative perception of the present government is due to his press campaigns.

Fini in an interview to la Repubblica said his private life has nothing to do with his political decisions. They are two distinct spheres but the casual perception will always be that his political actions are a rebuttal. So Berlusconi wins either way.

This evening the two are short of declaring war. Berlusconi feigns that he's been insulted. Personally, I agree with Fini's evaluation of the situation with Berlusconi's antics and media mongering. Whatever, the House of "Liberties" is dead and good riddance. Berlusconi will in no way put together a majority without Allianza Nazionale. As for the gutted UDC the survivors should maroon themselves on the Left shore. Either that or play house boy for Berlusconi.

Now Berlusconi has put on the populist mask with his "ten" "million" signatures (apologies to Techno) and like any aspiring Caesar is in tune with the People. With Bossi's guns they might as well attack the State.

Berlusconi's helter-skelter conduct these past days makes him the Charles Manson of Italian politics.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Nov 20th, 2007 at 02:33:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
His approach was entirely destructive without offering an alternative project.

A lot of the phrases could be used to describe the Spanish right wing, PP and it really creates a public chronic-fatigue here, hopefully turning against them.  It would be a huge national embarrassment if much of it transcended borders.

One of their regular ploys, besides the abuse of media, is to appeal laws passed by Parliament in the Constitutional Court.  (Gay marriage, shorter divorce process...)  The law goes into effect, however, there is always that hanging case of inconstitutionality.

The supreme court was previously stacked in their favor, 5-4 IIRC, so there are constant battles with the government to recuse judges on major issues and to increase the number to 11.

Their behavior is shameful, maybe to force themselves onto the news twice a day, lest they be forgotten.

Great update, as always!

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.

by metavision on Tue Nov 20th, 2007 at 02:53:02 PM EST
Thanks! The Spanish and Italian right wings are very close together (always have been- especially under Franco). At least within the right there's a lot of cross border note comparing.

Luckily Spain has a more stable parliamentary system. It is being discussed in Italy as a possible alternative along with the German system. The reform of our electoral system is extremely urgent. Whatever hybrid will be chosen it will always be better than the present porcellum.

Atleast Zapatero can do leftist things.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Nov 20th, 2007 at 04:09:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally, I prefer the German system though it is rather more complex than the Spanish one.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Nov 26th, 2007 at 07:48:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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