Italian Elections 2006

Ok, the Italian elections are now just about one month away, although you wouldn’t guess this from reading the British press where the David Mills/Silvio Berlusconi case is what seems to be making all the running. Now as I indicated in this post, I will try and give some systematic coverage to the election issues as they evolve during the campaign. In that post I outlined 7 issues which I thought would be worth looking at in an election which I think is going to be very important not just for the Italian people themselves but for all citizens of the EU. I had a first pass at one of the topics here (and here).

Maybe the best starting point is number 7 on the list: the sense of denial.

Looking at the fact that Berlusconi himself seems to have started his campaign in Washington, while former Commission president Romano Prodi now seems to have become an early convert to neo-protectionism (and this piece), I would definitely say that this is really the number one issue. In order to help me on my course through these troubled waters Roberto of Wind Rose Hotel has kindly offered to send me some on the spot material. Here is his first missive. It confirms my worst fears.

It is usually pretty uncertain, in Italy, whether or not what is known as official statistical data are as reliable as they are in the rest of the Western world. Nevertheless data are the most accountable criteria of judgment we Italians have at our disposal in deciding for which of the two coalitions to give our vote.

In the next general election, Italians will remember what Istat, the official statistics institute, reported on Wednesday: Italy experienced zero growth in 2005 (though Maurizio Sacconi, welfare undersecretary, did not show excessive concern with regard to Istat figures, he even saw some positive signals (see here).

But if a Brit, or a Dutch, a Dane , etc., really wants to try to understand what is at stake and why, on April 9 and 10, people will vote as they do then they should, in my humble opinion, bear in mind that Italy is not a Country where people can afford the luxury of basing their electoral choices, first and foremost, on what official data and survey results purportedly reveal. We have to chose between a centre-right coalition whose leader, the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi called on Wednesday in Washington for “ a grand alliance of all democracies” to fight the threat posed by Islamic extremism, and a centre-left coalition in which the leader of the small Partito dei Comunisti Italiani, Oliviero Diliberto, arguedonly a few hours later that Mr Berlusconi had shaken president Bush’s “bleeding hand.”

Between a strongly pro-America centre-right and a centre-left in which another – and bigger (some 8% in the last general election) – Communist party (Rifondazione comunista) containing members of the Global Justice Movement (one of them will be a candidate to the Parliament for the coalition itself on April 9 and 10) together with various other rag-bag extremists, among them those who have now become famous for chanting slogans such as, “Ten, one hundred, one thousand Nassiriyas” *** during protest rallies in which the U.S. and Israeli flags are burned.

I think this isn’t going to be, for many of my fellow countrymen, an easy choice.

*** Nassiriya is the Iraqi town where, on November 12, 2003, a suicide car bomber devastated an Italian military police base, killing 19 Italians and 9 Iraqis.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

9 thoughts on “Italian Elections 2006

  1. An update
    In today’s Financial Times:

    Italy’s economy has “run aground” and must improve its productivity to reverse the relative decline of Europe’s fourth biggest economy, Mario Draghi, the new governor of the country’s central bank, warned at the weekend.
    Speaking only five weeks ahead of a general election likely to be a bitter and close-fought contest, Mr Draghi spelt out the seriousness of Italy’s problems, saying: “Gross domestic product did not grow [last year], our products lost even more world market share and the budget deficit increased.”
    […]
    According to an Abacus-Sky TG24 opinion poll last Thursday, the opposition holds a 51.5-47 per cent lead over the government, the same advantage that it had a week earlier.

    This would be enough to give the centre-left a majority in both houses of parliament.
    Read the rest

  2. This is really excellent I think …

    I have always thought Italian politics to be quite interesting yet I have always lacked the understanding to cope with dynamics.

    Sometimes when I read an article in the Danish press and/or see a report on television I am left with a “how can this be possible” feeling. A couple of examples …

    1. Generally, how has Berlusconi been able to do some of the things he has done and still stand up smiling.

    2. Why did it take so long before Fazio left office; i.e. it took Siniscalco’s resignation.

    A question to get the dicussion started …

    How will the North – South divide in Italy affect these election; will we see the traditional picture or some changes.

    looking forward to hear more.

  3. Maybe Prodi can do a better job then Berlusconi did but somehow i have the feeling it will be politics as usual.

    Whoever wins sure has his work cut out for him, that´s for sure.

  4. Claus, as far as I can see, in your remarks there is stuff enough for two or three essays. But, since some of your “how can this be possible” feelings are similar to those of many Italians, and I am one of the “incredulous,” I couldn’t be that essayist. Yet, I would like to give, in the next letters to AFoE, some information and a few opinions, tying to make it a little more easy, for non Italian readers, to understand the main issues of the Italian campaign.
    But, I’m afraid, even such a minimalist approach is not going to be easy. Nevertheless, since I accepted the challenge, I will do my best not to be too elusive.
    Best
    Rob

  5. It’s going to be really interesting with the pending investigation of the present Prime Minister and David Mills.
    I raise my glass and toast the both of them for some interesting blog topics which will be available soon.

  6. Thanks for this. Good to see you’re planning on more posts as the campaign goes on, I’m looking forward to it.

    “Ten, one hundred, one thousand Nassiriyas”
    Ugh. As you say a difficult choice when presented in these terms. Between a crook and some fascists, maybe. My question is, how much influence do the crazies have inside the Prodi coalition? Perhaps the problem with the Unione is not so much its extremes but its lack of a centre. The manifesto – a bloated compromise – seems an ominous sign.
    If Prodi wins, who will govern?

  7. Bert, I do not think that there are real risks that the Unione would be hijacked, so to speak, by the extremes.
    I do not have any sympathy for the extreme left (and even less for the extreme right), but it seems to me that the fear of an extremist government should apply more to the center-right than to the center-left.
    My personal opinion is that in the past 5 years Italy *did* have an extremist government, e.g. in the lack of shame and in the capability, in Italy and abroad, of outraging everyone who was not an hardcore Belusconi supporter.
    I agree that Italy needs drastic economical reforms, and therefore a government that is strong and brave enough of promoting them.
    My fear is not that the center-left will/would be too extreme, but that it will lack the guts it takes to steer the country away from the economical disaster.
    Having said that, I will vote for center-left, that IMO represents the only (tiny) chance for Italy to get back in the right direction.

  8. My fear is not that the center-left will/would be too extreme, but that it will lack the guts it takes to steer the country away from the economical disaster.
    Are you entirely sure it knows which direction to steer? Is agreement on this question even possible within the Unione?

    Marco, given what you say about the last five years, it’d be interesting to see your reply to Ben P’s comment on the other thread. Ben is kind of self-effacing (“ignorant outsider” he calls himself), but his question is asked by a lot of Europeans, myself included: how has Berlusconi done it? His media dominance doesn’t hurt him of course, but there’s more to it than that, isn’t there? My theories, such as they are, are based on thin reading and brief visits – a firsthand view’s way better.

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