Italian Elections: Still too close to call.

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.

How not to govern

European Tribune – How not to govern

But what is certain is that these decisions make a mockery of our institutions. It undermines the rule of law (“ignore the laws we pass”), it shows that thos government is such a lameduck that legitimacy for negotiations must come from the outside (the UMPparty), it turns the prime minister (for being sidelined for a junior minister) and the president (for being unable to get rid of his reckless prime minister) into objects of ridicule, and it shows, if ever proof was ever needed, that the interests of France are the last thing on these people’s minds, who are focused only on their personal prospects at the next election, still a year away.

Berlusconi’s followers

I wish I saw this great recap of the Prodi-Berlusoni debate earlier by European Tribune diarist ‘de Gondi’. But I found something better. This comment he made to the post deserves a larger audience.

I rarely meet someone who openly admits he/she sympathizes for Forza Italia. (For AN, yes.) Conversation doesn’t go too far because it bangs into “devotion” with a big starry-eyed “D.” The figure of Berlusconi is fundamental to the party. I don’t see it surviving him. It’s more a personal political entity with religious overtones. Either you believe or you don’t. Basically his electorate is reactionary, similar to followers of poujadisme or qualunquismo. The party appeals to primitive fears while idealizing the leader. Marketing is a strategic component of the party. Candidates and themes are created according to the logic of launching a product.

Many of the party’s functionaries or key figures come from the radical communist left. My impression is that he appeals to the “orphans of Stalin” type of personality.

Another component of his movement reflects party struggles in the eighties. At the time, Italy’s chronic state of being a limited democracy in the context of the Cold War gave enormous power to political parties and currents within the parties without any effective popular base. Italy was a partitocrazia in which citizens were at best clients when not subjects. This brought about diffused irresponsibility and massive corruption. (And Berlusconi was a major player at the time.) The power system became feudal in which the distinction between left and right, between Socialist and Democrat-Christian was purely nominal. With the collapse of the partitocrazia after the Cold War, three new forces coalesced: the modern left with the ex-communists as the major force, the minor democratic fascist party, MSI, which became AN, and the Lega Nord which represented a racist impulse for major territorial autonomy. There was a void where the old power structure had been. Forza Italia filled this void aggregating the minor conservative parties with the so-called Socialists into a winning coalition in 1994, only to fall apart within little more than a year.

At face value it seems strange that a political entity can house contrasting forces that range from the extreme rightwing to the mock-left Craxi orphans. If you look at it as a representation of Italian political collusion in the eighties manifested in the King’s body (le corps du Roi) it makes more sense. Rather than reverentially attend the good Lord on his chaisse percée, a good kick in the ass is called for.

Parents of Kurdish political refugee murdered in Turkey

There is some friction between Belgium and Turkey.

First there was the case of Fehriye Erdal, a far-left militant that was convicted last Thursday in Belgium for being a member of a criminal organisation (Turkish group DHKP-C or Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front). Trouble is, when Belgian authorities proceeded to arrest her she had disappeared. A big fuss ensued with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül demanding an investigation and the extradition of Erdal to Turkey.

Today another story has emerged in the Belgian press. The unlinkable VRT Teletekst reports on pages 157 and 158 that Flemish Minister of Foreign Policy Geert Bourgeois has written the Turkish ambassador to Belgium a letter asking an explanation for the murder of the parents of Derwich M. Ferho, the president of the Kurdish Institute in Brussels. Ferho’s parents were kidnapped last Thursday in Turkey and killed in what some people, notably the Kurdish Institute, suspect to be an assault by Turkish death squads and local security services. It seems that Ferho’s parents had previously been threatened by Turkish authorities because their two sons, both political refugees living in Belgium, had engaged in, and I quote from the unlinkable news item on VRT Teletekst, “anti-Turkish activities abroad”.

Geert Bourgeois has asked for an explanation and warned that there could be a problem if Derwich’s parents were indeed murdered by Turkish authorities, especially in view of Turkish negotiations to enter the EU. When Bourgeois himself was asked if there could be a link with the missing Erdal, he responded: “It would be too early to say, but I would not rule out that possibility”.

Since nothing seems to be confirmed yet… to be continued

Spain’s Immigration

As Spanish commenter Pepe would probably say, ‘hot labour’ is moving into Spain at a nifty clip: 2% of the total population per annum. In 2004 the number increased by 700,000. Last year, although we don’t have the numbers yet there was probably the same number or more. Here is a story from El Pais which was linked-to in the IHT based on this press release (in Spanish). Note that these numbers are for 1 January 2005, we still have to add 2006.

The number of immigrants in Spain rose last year to the equivalent of 8.5 percent of the total population as of January 1, 2005, according to figures released on Tuesday by the National Statistics Institute (INE). Of the total 44.1 million people registered as residents, 3.7 million were non-Spanish. The total population rose 2.1 percent from the year-earlier figure, while the number of immigrants rose 23 percent from the figures released on January 1, 2004.

The regions that registered the largest rise in population were Catalonia, Andalusia, Madrid and Valencia, largely due to immigration. Only in the North African enclave of Melilla did the population decrease, the INE said.

The largest immigrant group hails from Ecuador with 475,698 residents, followed by Morocco with 420,556, Colombia with 248,894, Romania with 207,960 and Britain with 174,810.

For towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants, Rojales in Alicante boasts the largest percentage of foreign-born residents. Of the total population of 13,807, 65.3 percent are immigrants, the INE said. Rojales, about 35 kilometers from Alicante, is a popular spot for British citizens to buy vacation and retirement homes.

In November, the Center for Sociological Research (CIS) released a survey showing that three out of every five Spaniards responded that there are too many immigrants in Spain. Immigration also was shown to be the second-most important problem for Spaniards (40 percent) after unemployment (54.1 percent) and ahead of terrorism (25.3 percent).

Nevertheless, the same survey showed that nearly 61 percent of Spaniards feel immigrants should have the right to vote in local elections, while 53.4 percent would extend that right to national elections.

France and Globalisation

Consultants KPMG and French employers’ group Medef have just published a survey on attitudes to globalisation and outsourcing. Interestingly a higher percentage of employers than previously said they saw no benefit in moving jobs to countries with cheaper labour markets (56% compared with 29% last year), while 74 per cent said broader foreign investment had helped safeguard jobs in France. Is this an example of ‘double entendre’? Is it a real reflection of attitudes to globalisation, or a ‘packaging’ exercise where it is easier to advocate something as ‘new investment’ rather than ‘moving jobs’. At the same time the FT says,

But for those SMEs with a low turnover, or which lacked innovation, the lower-cost economies were still seen as a danger.There is a growing gulf between the strategies of such companies and larger or more innovative rivals, the report said.