Italy’s Economic Problems Under The Spotlight

As Manuel points out in the accompanying post, Romano Prodi’s resignation as Italy’s Prime Minister is a rather sudden and dramatic, but scarcely unexpected, development. The immediate political crisis may be resolved as rapidly as it appeared, but again as Manuel indicates it may only serve as a prelude for further things to come, and the fragility of any government coalition which may be put together only underlines the difficulties Italy will almost certainly have in addressing what are important ongoing economic problems. The present post will simply attempt to outline some of the main economic problems Italy faces, in order to contextualize the political problem a little.
Continue reading

A Crisis is Born in Italy

Well as almost everyone must surely know by now, Romano Prodi’s government resigned earlier in the week. The present situation is still far from clear, with President Giorgio Napolitano holding urgent consultations with the various interested parties even as I write. Since my interest in Italy is largely an economic one (see accompanying post to follow this) and since I do not consider myself to be any sort of expert on the Italian political process, I asked Manuel Alvarez Rivera (who runs the Election Resources on the Internet site) and who is a political scientist with detailed knowledge of Italian politics for an opinion. Below the fold you can find what he sent me.

At the same time anyone inside or outside of Italy with a different take or perspective please feel free to add something in the comments section.
Continue reading

Elections in Serbia: Oh, Well

So Serbia had parliamentary elections yesterday.

Short version: could have been better, could have been much worse. There will be a new government, but probably not much will change.

A bit more below the flip.
Continue reading

Dutch elections: preliminary round-up/impressions

The 2006 parliamentary elections in The Netherlands have produced some interesting results. Another centre-right coalition of CDA, VVD and D66 (before the latter blew up that very same coalition, see comments) seems to be off the table and the formation of a new coalition will prove to be very difficult what with the votes spread out more evenly over the main parties. There are now four major contenders instead of three. Prime Minister Jan-Peter Balkenende, who will probably continue to be Prime Minister, will now have to consider forming either a left-leaning coalition or risk an unworkable monster coalition. From The Guardian:

The Netherlands is facing political deadlock after the governing Christian Democrats scraped an unconvincing win in yesterday’s election and parties on the hard left and right performed well enough to impede their ability to form a government. As political leaders braced themselves for weeks of horse-trading to form a coalition, the outgoing finance minister delivered a blunt assessment of the result.

“It’s chaos,” Gerrit Zalm, a member of the Liberal (VVD) party was quoted by Reuters as saying. “The real winner is the only party that actually did not participate, which is the party of the anarchists.”

A summary round-up of the results can be found below the fold.
Continue reading

Serbia: Elections at last

So Serbia has finally called for elections.

I admit that I was wrong about this government’s tenacity. I predicted back in July that the government would collapse in October. Not so. It has staggered on, month after month… gasping, retching, coughing blood, but somehow refusing to die. It bought a few weeks by holding a referendum on a new Constitution, which was pretty useless but got voted in anyway. Then G17 — the liberal technocrat Europhile party, the smallest member of the ruling coalition — gave the government a few weeks more by the Kafkaesque maneuver of having all its ministers resign, but not actually leave office until the government accepted their resignations. Which took nearly two months.

But anyway, elections are coming, and a date has been set: January 21, 2007.

So what does it all mean?
Continue reading

Sandy Brown Baltic Shores

Sweden wasn’t the only Baltic area with an election yesterday. The voters of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in Germany’s northeastern corner, dealt a heavy blow to the ruling Social Democrat-postcommunist (SPD-Left) coalition. The SPD dropped 10 percent, but still received the largest share of votes, topping the Christian Democrats (CDU) 30.2 percent to 28.8 percent. The postcommunist (or possibly post-postcommunist, depending on how you look at these things) party, now known as the Left, rose marginally from 16.4 percent to 16.8 percent. The SPD can either attempt to continue the current coalition, which would then have a one-seat majority, or it can try to forge a grand coalition with the CDU, with all of the pluses and minuses currently on display at the national level.

But relatively mundane state politics are not what today’s headlines are about.
Continue reading

Balkenende government falls over Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It seems that this morning Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende is visiting the Queen to signal the resignation of the cabinet. The smallest of the three parties in the centre-right government, D66 with six seats, has signaled that it would not continue to support the coalition if Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk retains her portfolio. The cabinet refused, so now they have to resign.

The main coalition partners, the CDA and the VVD (Christian Democrats and Liberals), blame D66 for taking umbrage at a minister who was just doing her job. D66 complains that it did not intend to force a crisis on the government, it just wanted Verdonk to resign.

At the centre of this is Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Ms Verdonk is something of a controversial character in her own right, but her handling of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s immigration status appears to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. According to Trouw, Ayaan Hirsi Ali finds it “sad” that the cabinet fell over her immigration status.

It’s not clear whether there will be an election forthwith. It seems that Balkenende may be able to form a minority government with just the two main coalition partners, although the lifespan of such a government might be short. Otherwise, Dutch law calls for elections within three months. Polls suggest the centre-right parties do not have the support to come back into government, but it’s close enough that the election campaign might make a difference.

Update: Guy has a much more extensive post on the subject at A Few Euros More, which I didn’t see when I posted this.

Italian Elections: Still too close to call.

UPDATE below the fold.

With respect to the Italian elections, there’s still only one thing certain – it’s going to be a long night, and, possibly, not the last one. There have apparently been, if my rudimentary understanding of Italian news broadcaster Rai News 24 is correct, unjustified delays in data processing. Thus, given the closeness of the race between the center-left and center-right coalitions, Italian expatriats may be the ones who cast the decisive votes for both lower and upper chambers of the Italian Parliament, since a law, introduced in 2001 formed four “overseas constituencies.” They will, accordingly, choose 12 of the 630 MPS in the lower, and six of the the 315 senators in the upper house.

So, instead of news, just some more context. At wwitv.com you can find a whole page full of web streams provided by Italian tv stations. Electionresources.com features a long explanation of the Italian electoral systems, both old and new. As the author, Manuel Álvarez-Rivera explains, the system has been altered in numerous ways for this election –

It is widely anticipated that in the event of an Unione victory under the new PR systems, the resulting center-left majorities in both houses of Parliament would be considerably smaller than under the previous systems, and the leader of the Unione, former Prime Minister (and former President of the European Commission) Romano Prodi has promised to undo the changes if the center-left returns to power in this year’s elections.

Finally, here’s the google-translated election website provided by Italy’s interior ministery, which, hopefully, is, where you can find the eventual election results as soon as they are released officially.
Continue reading

Italian Elections

Well it’s not official yet, but the first exit poll has Berlusconi trailing:

An exit poll Monday showed conservative Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi trailing center-left challenger Romano Prodi in parliamentary elections. The Nexus poll indicated that Prodi’s coalition received between 50 and 54 percent of the vote in both the upper and lower chambers of parliament, while Berlusconi’s coalition received 45-49 percent.

Obviously this is the ‘early days’ stage, and we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. I will be updating as the day (or night) wears on.

Update I: It’s looking firmer for Prodi. More exit polls are coming up with similar results. For example the Piepoli Institute’s exit polls for Sky TG24 have given the Prodi coalition 52 percent to 47 percent for Berlusconi’s centre-right and for both houses.

Update II. Tobias has now posted more extensively. First thing Tuesday morning the outcome is still in doubt, and those who were sceptical about the early exit polls were right to be so. Prodi is now claiming victory, but this is being challenged vigorously by the Berlusconi camp. The margin is wafer thin for the lower house (the Chamber of Deputies, or ‘Camera’), with Prodi’s having 49.80 per cent of the vote as compared to 49.73 per cent for Berlusconi’s House of Freedoms (a difference of a mere 25,000 votes). Naturally calls for a recount abound. The position of the Senate is still in doubt. There is currently a one seat difference between the camps (in favour of Berlusconi) but six more seats based on overseas votes are still to be allocated.

Wikipedia have a substantial entry on the elections themselves, and another on the Italian parliament, which may prove useful in understanding things if the final out come is ultimately a ‘hung’ parliament.

Changing Colors

The CDU in Baden-Wuerttemberg is conducting negotiations with the Greens in that state to decide if the two parties should form a coalition government. If they do, it will be the first “black-green” coalition at the state level, and another sign of fluidity in Germany’s post-reunification party politics.

Update: Maybe next time. The CDU and FDP will, according to reports today, continue the coalition that has run the southwest for the last 10 years. Germany changes slowly.
Continue reading