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 â€œ a grand alliance of all democraciesâ€ 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 Bushâ€™s â€œbleeding hand.â€
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.