Sunday, May 07, 2006

Battle for the Quirinale

Tomorrow morning I'm taking the train from Fidenza via Bologna to Rome.

So far I'm enjoying the sun and life of northern Italy. Couldn't be much better.

I'm heading for Rome for a final follow-up meeting Monday evening and Tuesday of the International Commission on the Balkans.

But I will be arriving in a Rome filled with political drama of the highest order. It's tomorrow that 1 010 representratives - both chambers of the Italian parliament as well as representatives of the country's 20 regions - meet to elect a new President of the Republic.

When elected, that new president is likely to ask Romano Prodi to form the next government.

But it's completely up in the air who will be elected. It will be a secret ballot.

Prodi has put forward ex-Communist Massimo D'Alema as candidate. This has, rather predictably, caused a storm of indignation from the centre-right. Also the Vatican - still a force - has voiced its grave reservations.

Berlusconi - not a happy man these days - have gone so far as to suggest that the election of D'Alema would lead to a "fiscal strike" by his voters, i e a refusal to pay taxes. It sounds pretty extreme to me when an outgoing Prime Ministers is seen as advocating illegal, and at the end of the day, non-democratic measures.

It's thus highly uncertain that D'Alema will be elected. To be elected in the first votings of the rather complicated system you need 674 votes - but estimates are that the centre-left coalition can only muster 541, and are thus significantly short of what is needed.

Just as well, in my opinion. A more widely respected and broadly supported candidate would not hurt the politics of Italy at this important point in time.

And there are numerous such.

I'm having dinner tomorrow with Giuliano Amato. He would certainly make a good and well-respected president. He's from the centre-left - but respected by the centre-right.

Another possible name is Mario Monti. He's more from the centre-right, but is respected by the centre-left.

Both are names that will bring Italy credibility and voice with the rest of Europe.

But we'll see. Maybe the entire thing is sorted out when I'm sitting om my train heading for Rome.