Italian Elections 2006 Part II

Well the election campaign in Italy trundles on, and issues are starting to emerge. One of the more curious details to have come out in recent days refers to the size and shape of the voting card. It is to be some 65 centimetres long with canditates arranged horizontally rather than vertically across the strip (if this seems like a long ticket, some US cards are up to a metre long apparently, although just why AGI online choses the US for its comparison is beyond me).

Beyond the ticket itself, Italy’s leading independent newspaper Corriere della Sera has just published an editorial coming down (for the first time I think) on the side of the centre left coalition lead by Romano Prodi (declaration of interest: CdS is my preferred reading among Italian newspapers). The reasoning for this decision seems to run something along the lines that the Berlusconi government has taken policy decisions more in the light of the need to resolve internal coalition differences than in the light of the real needs and interests of the country: to which ‘amen’.
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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.
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M’s very own locusts.

After starting off this year’s early election campaign with a debate about the dangers of the sometimes problematic short term investment horizons of private equity firms, it was the SPD’s very own loony left’s locusts in the party’s board that forced their chairman, Franz Müntefering, to declare that he would not seek re-election at the party conference next month and that he was no longer certain whether he could then serve as the minister in a grand coalition. Certainly, given that surprises seem to have become the rule in German politics by now, things might look different by then.
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Fischer’s gain, America’s loss?

Michael Moore gives us a thoughtful article about Joschka Fischer (and some priceless Fischer anecdotes) in Slate today. Before going any farther I should make clear that I refer not to the notoriously fat filmmaker but to Michael Scott Moore, an American novelist living in Berlin. Of his fatness or otherwise I am entirely ignorant.

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Merkel is in?

FT says a deal will be reached shortly, and Merkel will be chancellor. Schröder is out.

Ms Merkel’s expected victory in the battle for the chancellorship is likely to be announced on Monday, following a meeting on Sunday evening in Berlin between Mr Schröder and Ms Merkel, according to the SPD politicians, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The two leaders met on Thursday evening for four hours to agree the framework of a SPD-CDU grand coalition, but refused on Friday to disclose details. The talks also include SPD leader Franz Müntefering, and Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber.

Officials close to Mr Schröder said the chancellor would not become vice chancellor and foreign minister in the coalition, despite pressure from within the SPD for him do so.

The SPD may be given an equal number of cabinet posts as the CDU and be offered first choice of ministries to control, the MP said. SPD officials said these could include the foreign, economics and family ministries.

In addition, the CDU is almost certain to give the SPD assurances – even ahead of lengthy coalition talks expected to start next week – that it will drop key elements of its more radical economic reform agenda, such as changes to job protection and collective bargaining rules.

Problems. And Games.

Unfortunately, following our recent move to a different hosting provider, some Euros in the Fistful are still experiencing technical difficulties when trying to post. We’re trying to solve the problem as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, other people are experiencing problems as well. The “K-question”, the question who will become the next Chancellor, and presumably the amjor stumbling block on the way to true coalition negotiations between the CDU and the SPD, is still as close to a solution as it was when the polls closed on September 18. Both parties are still hoping the other one will blink first.
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And speaking of Eurovision

Just a quick update on Croatia’s EU candidacy.

Eight countries have signed a letter to British PM Tony Blair supporting Croatia’s membership. The letter was presented to Blair — who currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, and will until January 1 — in the recent confence at Newport, in Wales.

The signing countries were Austria, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
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Another Grand Coaltion: The Sun of Jamaica.

Over on Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell – I think somewhat accidently, because I get the impression he believes Germans do *NOT* want to change their distorted labour incentive and tax systems – writes about the fundamental reason for the result of last Sunday’s election.
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The Coalition Inside the Party

The Jamaican solution is now rapidly hurtling towards the plausibility horizon, as perhaps the most serious objection against it becomes blindingly clear. After all, the CDU-CSU is in itself a coalition of two parties. It’s usually in British politics that one speaks of a party being in itself a coalition, assuming as one does that proportional representation countries tend to make their coalitions explicit. But it remains true that political parties are rarely monolithic.

Down-blog, there’s been a discussion going about whether the CDU-CSU is really a single entity, a pair of political parties who share a parliamentary fraction, two political parties in coalition, or something else. Whatever it formally is, there are indubitably both CDU and CSU MPs. And that’s all you need for a potential inner-party politics. The CSU’s leader, Edmund Stoiber, is seriously not happy with the Jamaican option. Here, he tells the CSU faction in the Bavarian parliament (what, there are others? Who knew?) that “the contradictions between the interested parties are so great that such an alliance is not in sight”, and that the Greens “would have to reinvent themselves completely”. The Bavarian interior minister remarked that the CSU would have to swallow not just a frog but a giant toad to join such a coalition, and the minister of the economy pointed out all the policy disputes listed in my last post, and then some more. Not just the kerazy Bavarians said so – the Federal CDU’s deputy leader Christoph Böhr said that he could not imagine “throwing the heart of our manifesto into the wastepaper basket”. Damn, the metaphors are getting a hammering.

On the other hand, although Claudia Roth, one of the Greens’ multiple leaders, repeated that the FDP would have to do what Stoiber said the Greens would have to (she used exactly the same words) before they could join a traffic light coalition, her colleague and fellow-leader Reinhard Bütikofer signalled that the Greens were available for talks with both the CDU and the FDP. He also said that “his fantasy did not reach far enough” to visualise Angela Merkel becoming chancellor.

Meanwhile, on the Ampelkoalition front….

Losing the CSU would outweigh gaining the Greens, so that’s as good as a veto of the idea.
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German Election Political Crisis Roundup

In the maelstrom, one thing is clear: SPD General Secretary Franz Müntefering, he of the Kapitalismusdebatte, is staying in his post after the parliamentary party voted by a 93% majority to keep him. In other news: Earth continues to orbit Sun, Pope Benedict says committed to Catholicism, bear sighted shitting in woods. His talents in the smoke-filled backroom will be needed, as SPD-CDU, SPD-Green, and CDU-FDP negotiations were announced today. No word on Green-FDP conversations…and nobody wants to play with Oskar and Gregor in the naughty corner.

Angela Merkel may fall prey to the CDU’s Old Grey Man tendency as early as this afternoon, when she presents herself for re-election as parliamentary party leader. There are no other candidates, this being something of a ritual in German and Austrian politics, but if the OGMs are sufficiently angry about their campaign’s spectacular train crash, she could be on her way to join Joschka Fischer and Paul Kirchhof in obscurity by tonight…actually, hold that, she has been re-elected by 98.6% of the vote. Which is actually better than she got before the disastrous election campaign – work that out.

Here, we learn that the CSU has been thrown into a horridly intense introspection nightmare, as Dr. Gonzo might have put it, by the fact that they polled less than 50% for only the second time in their history. 49.6% doesn’t sound at all bad, until you remember that they don’t really have democracy in Bavaria, they have the CSU and its VERY long-lasting leaders, who play on Bavarian local patriotism and Catholic conservatism to claim a monster powerbase. The other parties’ comparative success may have the unintended consequence of saving Angela Merkel, because the CSU can hardly say “Told you so, we should have gone with a real man like Stoiber” if they buggered up their own campaign. Interestingly, it was none other than Edmund Stoiber who formally nominated Merkel as fraction leader – presumably signalling loyalty?

The old crook Wolfgang Schäuble, whose political career mysteriously continues to survive his disgrace in the Helmut Kohl party funding scandal, spoke out for a Jamaica coalition. He says it’s “our duty as democrats” and that a government without Merkel is “unthinkable”. Do not believe a word this man says. The Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s interviewer describes the grand coalition as the Elefantenhochzeit or elephants’ wedding – can we start using that?

In other dishonesty-related news, Franz Müntefering is trying to make out that the SPD is really the biggest single party and hence entitled to form a government on the grounds that the CDU and CSU are two separate entities. Jeer at the absurd sophistry!

Renate Künast is to take over Fischer’s duties pro tempore, reports the Austrian newspaper whose website uses frames. Check out the conspiracy madness in the forums; apparently Fischer is plotting to put Künast in so as to achieve a Jamaica coalition, because he’s a warmonger. Sometimes Der Standard’s forums make me glad I don’t live in Vienna any more and don’t have to listen to this infantile nonsense.

The appalling tabloid Bild Zeitung, who I refuse to link to, claims Schröder will drop his demand for the Chancellery if the CDU pick someone other than Merkel. Given 98.6% of them just voted for her, I take it that statement is no longer operative.