Monday, April 10, 2006

Instability and Intrigue in Italy

There was a long time when few really cared about the politics of Italy. Most of the Italians certainly did not. But the economy went from strength to strength, and few really cared about the intrigues of Rome.

But that was another time. With the euro and with globalisation, Italy is facing a huge need to reform its economic governance structure. Suddenly politics is starting to become an issue of some consequence.

As the results of the Italian election are now coming in, it seems like the country is heading for the worst of all possible worlds.

A clear victory for the one or the other would have been the best - not that I'm overly impressed with either. But there would have been a clear responsibility for what would be done - and not done.

Now we seem to be heading towards a Berlusconi coalition hanging in there by the thinnest of margins.

It will certainly test the mental tolerance of many other Europeans. It is a fact that for many his style is an affront to decency in general and to the standing of Italy in particular.

But it seems as if he has managed to convince a part of the electorate that a vote for Prodi would mean giving real power to the real communists of Bertinoti. Unfortunately, there was an element of thruth in this.

But now he is sitting with a total dependence on the provincial populists of Lega Nord. Previously, he could have asked them to go to hell if they tried to blackmail him into even stranger politics.

With this result he can't. There is a risk of provincialists driving populists.

That means a weak government, perhaps openly populistic, and not very likely to last for the full parliamentary terms.

Rome will return to its intrigues and instabilities. The burning economic issues will be defered to another day.

Not good. Mildly speaking.