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Random Thoughts on the Italian Campaign

by de Gondi Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 09:49:54 AM EST

A photographer had an exhibition here recently, called it electoral lasagna, layers upon layers of electoral posters. Yet there's a lot less than two years ago, as if the rightwing coalition had abruptly changed strategy. For years every space within arm's reach was smothered with layers of posters that would fall off by sheer weight. Kilometers of the same mindulling identical drivel. If the rain came down in torrents there would be glue and cellulose mush on the streets and sidewalks, sort of like skidding on processionaries. There was work for everybody putting up posters.

from the diaries. Read it all. -- Jérôme

Despite all the grandstanding over immediate elections, it seems the Right would have preferred that there were no elections. As if they were swanched by events that they loudly reclaimed but intimately didn't want, nor contemplate. And since the Right was so sure of its numeric- and moral- superiority throughout the Prodi legislature, they must now put their money where their mouth is, show their cards. It apparently never occurred to them that the Left could exploit the rightwing electoral laws, turn them upside down in every conceivable comma by simply applying them to the letter. It's a pleasure to watch poor Berlusconi rage against the ballot composition as a fraud when all that was done was apply his by-laws. The guy didn't want a caretaker government to make a decent electoral law, so let's just apply the law to the letter, Senate and all.

One of the cheap tricks now playing, call it the Pizza connection in remembrance of  Mr. Giuseppe Pizza. After the DC collapsed in 1992 there were legal battles over names and symbols. The white shield with the red cross written "Libertas" had kept the nation cosy and corrupt for four decades. So over the years sundry imposters and heirs laid claim to a word or a variant on the theme, close enough to harvest votes but not to be bared from running. Along comes Pier Ferdinando Casini with his CDU (Christian Democrat Union) who figures he can go out on his own after the go ahead from his patron, Cardinal Ruini. Now Pier is nice looking, baby face with grey hair. Divorced, a kid out of wedlock, strenuous advocate of Catholic values. His party has the highest number of mobsters and crooks running for office. He spent his early career hauling brief cases for the DC Party boss Arnaldo Forlani, nicknamed Forlanescu. He then cold turkeyed a couple of season until Berlunescu offered him a new suite of briefcases to carry.
But now that Casini has finally come of age, bless him, he is taking crucial votes away from Berlusconi's personal coalition. So Silvio gave some rope to a guy named Pizza who insists he's the real Anastasia. Ya, the Custodian of the True Shield. With the Cross. So Pizza, financially and verbally encouraged to take his case through regional administrative courts to the point of nearly provoking a constitutional crisis, won a stay by the State Council. So what law should be applied? Elections within 70 days of a government crisis, or 30 full days to be granted to a party to campaign? Pizza graciously offered to not insist on 30 days if his symbol were to be put on the ballot. But the ballots have not only been stamped, they've already been used to vote abroad.
So with a week to go, both Berlusconi and Pizza want all the ballots to be redone in accordance with their present needs- but curiously at odds with Berlusconi's own laws.

Ya, it's fraud accusation time. On the hour since 1994. There's a downbeat in this. There are no provisions in national elections for recounts. The president of each polling district has the final word. Anything else is a waste of time. Even if fraud were to be later discovered it won't change the final proclamation. But the arguments are ready: if the Left wins they're illegitimate because the ballots were rigged. If the Right wins their win has further legitimacy because they won despite the Left's dastardly evil subterfuges. Ah, such noble souls!  

The first reaction of many Leftist voters was not to vote. It's the gut feeling that says simply that politics is emotion. When I think about the inertia of  the Prodi government on certain issues or, worse, some of his legislation, or see some of the candidates offered up by the Democrat Party, the first reaction is, why bother? One of the distinguishing features of leftist voters is that negative evaluations play a significant role in their judgements. Leftists are more likely to vote against a person, a party or a program than a rightwinger. So, Veltroni's electoral strategy which offers an image of newness, youth, change, and dynamism, is aimed at winning over the new conformists, the alienated, even the hostile voters, but not us. He needn't bother. When we look at what the rightwing offers, yes, five to twelve years of sheer idiocy and bankruptcy coming up, we plug our noses and vote, obtorto colla. And then, who knows, maybe something will change, even if we're not counting on it.

Camelot. A weird article on Luigi Crespi in Micromega. Crispi is a pollster, long-time communist like many Berlusconi acolytes, the man who re-invented Berlusconi for the 2001 take. Recently arrested on some financial irregularities, he denied the charges on the grounds he was a Buddhist. Investigations further led to the "discovery" that Silvio's media empire obsessively fixed the news in cahoots with the RAI and attempted to bribe Prodi's senators. As if it weren't known. Ok, Crespi's a big man. He leans across the table and tells us how he engineered Berlusconi's landslide victory in 2001. It's the sword, man, Excalibur. King Arthur clinched the elections. Visions of Silvio beknighting Sire Antonio Tajani, so drenched in his own ecstasy that he singles it out as the most important moment in his life. Even Crespi's got his unsheathed sword behind him, even if he's presently a critic of Berlusconi. Excalibur, he goes on, are Silvio's televisions. Without them he's a nobody, just another politician. Nobody cares about the conflict of interest. People don't want to hear about problems and needs. What they want is something magical to dream about. They want something that materializes out of nowhere, something real like the sword in the rock or like Silvio's televisions. Silvio is love, a motherly love born of self-sacrifice for his/ her children. He and his machine work the love-hate axis from solid hard-dickness to transcendent agape.

Silvio isn't the only one who thrives on neutered sagas and legends in the political arena. There's Gotterdammerung for the initiated and Pontida for the Lega Nord. In 1167 at Pontida the Lombard cities formed the Lombard League against Frederick Barbarossa who presumably now hails from Tor Pignatara rather than Germany. The commemoration has been set for April 7th, so we'll get to see all the Lega candidates swear on the goddess Po their fidelity to the nation of Padania just before the elections. Hierophant Umberto Bossi presiding. Any other oath will be subordinate. Party satrap Umberto Bossi in his previous life threw parties periodically for having graduated as a doctor, an assertion somewhat at odds with medical school records. He once confided that he was an expert in high temperature heart surgery and had developed a new type of laser. You know, a conspiracy by the international scientific cabal to hush him up.

To build-up tension for the day's event, he's menaced to take up arms against the "Roman commie scum" if the vote ballot isn't changed for reasons that escape me, and it's not Pizza this time. He calls the ballot a "porcheria"- the same term used by another leghista, Senator Roberto Calderoli, in describing the same electoral law he had sponsored. The law is called the "Porcellum" in honour of Calderoli's remark, and it is precisely this law that gave us today's ballot. If Bossi were coherent, which indeed is asking too much, he should shoot Calderoli over this rather than bitch about Rome.

But in all this uproar over the ballot one thing is perfectly clear. Both Berlusconi and Bossi show scarce respect for the intelligence of their voters. After all, it's a matter of putting a cross on a symbol. It would be anti-constitutional to make their symbols more prominent than the others for as much as that would be to their liking. Hell, just do away with all those other candidate symbols and just put theirs, even throwing in Pizza's copy-cat Christian Democrat symbol.

very good stuff...

the context on casini was especially valuable, thanks-

the names, Pizza, Ruin-i, are elegiac.

(nb 'casini' is italian for everything between 'muddles', 'disturbances', and 'holy hell broken loose')

i thought silvio hated communists!

or is it that ex-commies make the most fanatic fascists?

'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 Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 10:56:00 AM EST
A large number of top-level functionaries in Forza Italia came from the Communist Party or the Extreme Left. Then there are ex-Socialists, P2 members, ex-Democrat Christians, both conservative and liberal. The only top level ex-extreme-rightwinger that comes to mind is Tajani, now at Strausborg. Cesare Previti was also close to the fascist party at least in temperament and family. Dell'Utri is Opus Dei and Mafia. The National Coordinator, Sandro Bondi, is an ex-commie while his Vice-Coordinator, Fabrizio Cicchitto, was extreme left, then Socialist. Many of Berlusconi's lawyers hail from the extreme left, such as Gaetano Pecorella. Strategists and pollsters, communist Crespi and extreme left Pilo. Ex-communist journalists: Feltri, Foa, Ferrara. And so on...
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 12:19:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ugh... so the communists originally split in three: Democrats, Rifondazione, and B's personal entity?...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 01:57:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a difference between parties and individual choices. The Communist party evolved towards the moderate Democratic party over a 15 year period. Rifondation is a split off that asserts to be the real McCoy.

The fact that many communists saw the true light in the person of Berlusconi is more a phenomena of "transformism." Some ex-communists in Berlusconi's personal entity have occupied key positions and have been a driving force of the one true message, while others settled for a fat retirement check. Many a man has price tags all over his arm.

It's very important that communists pass over to Berlusconism. It's tantamount to a conversion, the erring son who has re-embraced the Savior's light. It's a very Catholic thing.

This evening in Cagliari, Berlusconi delivered a sermon to his public. "I am like Jesus... I would like to ordain you defensors, apostles of Truth. Go forth, preach and convert the people..." His fans eat this up.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 04:59:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of the Democratic Party, how centre-left is it in terms of political position? Could it be compared to New Labour in the UK, a social-democratic party moving rightwards onto centre-right policy territory?
by Free Socialist on Mon Apr 7th, 2008 at 07:48:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Democratic Party has strong conservative and Catholic factions to lure the center. Ideologically, it comes off as a liberal reformist centrist party. The ideological left has been cut out primarily due to political realism. The political stalemate and lack of simple reforms in Italy has done more to shape the party's offer than ideology. On the other side there is a definite drift to the extreme right with temptations of despotism.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Apr 8th, 2008 at 01:28:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent, excellent color commentary.

Thank you for this.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Apr 9th, 2008 at 11:17:52 AM EST

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