Friday, December 28, 2012

BBC News: "Mario Monti to lead Italy centrist coalition"

The piece of news made it to the headlines of the BBC website: Mario Monti, althought not as a candidate, is willing to lead a centrist coalition after the next election.
Here the link to the BBC page with all the details, including links to Monti's and Berlusconi's profiles:


Mario Monti to lead Italy centrist coalition

Italy's outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti (28 Dec 2012) 
 Mario Monti could return as prime minister if a centrist coalition were successful at the polls
Italy's outgoing Prime Minister Mario Monti is to lead a coalition of centre parties going into a parliamentary election in February.
Speaking to reporters after four hours of talks with centrist politicians, he said he was willing to be "named leader of the coalition".
He resigned after 13 months as prime minister when predecessor Silvio Berlusconi withdrew his support.
The Vatican newspaper backs Mr Monti's bid to return as prime minister.
The BBC's David Willey, in Rome, says that Mr Monti clearly threw his hat into the political ring at a news conference on Friday evening.
"A new political formation has been born," Mr Monti said.
A single reform list, grouping together centrist parties, would stand for election to the Senate under the provisional title "Monti's agenda for Italy", he said.
But in the lower house, the chamber of deputies, there would be a coalition of centrist parties, including the Christian Democrat UDC.
As senator for life, Mr Monti cannot stand for election, but he is able to take part in the campaign and could return to the post of prime minister if a centrist coalition were successful.
He was brought in to form a technocratic government last year after the government of Silvio Berlusconi collapsed under pressure from the financial markets.
Mr Monti, a former economics professor and European Union Commissioner, was chosen to impose financial rigour on the economy.

Economic austerity
In power, he made some progress early on, including raising the retirement age and structural reforms.
But later policies were watered down and Mr Berlusconi and his centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party increasingly attacked Mr Monti's economic austerity.
Mr Monti has described his 13 months in office as "difficult but fascinating".
"The work we did... has made the country more trustworthy... more competitive and attractive to foreign investors," he said.
However ordinary Italians have been hard hit by the combination of tax rises and spending cuts Mr Monti has imposed to repair Italy's public finances and it is uncertain how well he will fare in the election on 24-25 February.
The left-wing Democratic Party is currently leading the opinion polls, while Silvio Berlusconi will lead the challenge from the right as head of his PDL party.
Mr Monti was optimistic that the electorate will stick with him. He told an impromptu news conference that he expected his supporters could win a "significant result" in the election.
"The traditional split between left and right has historic and symbolic value," he said, "but does not highlight the real alliance that Italy needs - one that focuses on Europe, and on reforms".

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mario Monti "ascends to politics"

It should be official now: Mario Monti is going into politics, and he announced it himself on the Twitter. Indeed, yesterday, Monti wrote: "Together we have saved Italy from disaster. Now we have to renovate politics. Complaints are not needed, efforts are. Let's "ascend to" politics!".

                                              Mario Monti's tweets
I should probably explain where the phrase "ascend to politics" is coming from.
You should know that in Italy we are not used to discuss about the heart of matters: that is why, out of habit, we talk for the sake of talking, especially our representatives. Now we are turning the huge news of Monti running in the next election in a matter of pure semantics.
In Italian, the expression "to go into politics" is translated as "scendere in campo", where "scendere" literally means "to descend". But Monti recently said that the right expression should be "salire in campo", where "salire" means "to ascend". So, if I want to translate it in a literal way, Mario Monti is not merely going into politics, but he is "ascending to politics". Well, that really changes everything, doesn't it?
So far, the only effect of the new phrase has been a reaction from Berlusconi, who commented: "Monti is 'ascending' to politics because he comes from a lower rank; when I got into politics, I came from a higher rank, so I 'descended'". The man is getting more and more pleasant.
Apart from pointless debates about what verb to use, Monti's candidacy could have serious implications for the main parties. He might take away a large portion of votes from Berlusconi's party "People of Freedom", but, probably, most of all from the leftwing "Democratic Party". Its leader Pierluigi Bersani (recently reconfirmed with a primary election) stated that they are not worried at all about Monti, but you can bet that they are, and they'd better be.
Now Monti has to decide if he wants to run with a unique list together with the centrist parties, or with a combination of different joint lists; this should be decided by the end of the year.
I am really, really anxious to find out where Monti's "ascent" will lead the country...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Mario Monti resigned. Now, will he run for premiership?

I have been away for a week, and I didn't even have a wi-fi connection, so I have been almost completely isolated from what happened in the world. In the evening sometimes I turned on the TV on an Italian news channel, but if I didn't want to ruin my holiday I had to switch it off immediately.
I can summarise the current Italian situation in three words: A REAL MESS.
It's becoming more and more difficult to keep track of everything.
In my last post I wrote that Berlusconi withdraw his support for Monti's government, and that it implied that Monti had to resign. Well, Monti did resign. He went to the Quirinale, the residence of the President of the Republic, and presented his resignation on the 21st of December. The following day, the President summoned the representatives of all parties, and then dissolved the Parliament. However, Monti will formally remain in charge until the election, which will be held (now we know for sure) on the 24th and 25th of February. So, exactly two months from now.

Mario Monti during yesterday's press conference

Nevertheless, many things are still unclear. First of all, we do not know if Monti will run or not. Yesterday, 23rd of December, he held a press conference during which he said that his programme does not belong to any specific political area, and therefore he did not want to take a side which, translated, I would interpret as "I will not run". However, he seems willing to accept the premiership if he is called for the job after the election is held. In other words, he could candidate not his person and not even his name, but his programme for government. This "agenda" is now online. It focuses mainly on Europe, taxes and growth, but it also touches important points such as conflict of interest (currently almost nonexistent in Italy) and a tougher law to prevent people involved in trials from running as candidates. These topics are, you can probably guess, absolutely taboo for Berlusconi, media magnate and protagonist of endless judicial controversies.
Berlusconi: we always end up talking about him. This man is the most incoherent person ever. I actually think that he is losing his mind for real this time. He should be treated, not mocked. It was because of him that Monti lost his parliamentary majority, but shortly after Berlusconi started to say that he wanted Monti to run as PM for a "big coalition of moderates". When Monti did not comment on that, he started to blackmail him by saying that if Monti does not run, he will. Then, he said that if Monti runs as a political candidate, in the future Berlusconi's party "People of Freedom" will never sustain Monti if he runs to become President of the Republic.
The man is clearly delirious, but, God knows why, everyone lets him talk freely. As Monti very cleverly put it: "I find it hard to follow Berlusconi's linearity of thought".
Everything is so confused and worrying right now, that the only way to have a merry Christmas is to try to forget about the outside world for one night. So, I will now turn my self to merrier thoughts, pretend that I live in a normal democracy, and enjoy the company of my family. I wish everyone a very happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mario Monti said he will stand down- and it’s already chaos

Last week, Silvio Berlusconi did not only declare that he will run again to be Prime Minister. He also withdrew his support for Mario Monti’s technocrat government.
The two things combined have already caused chaos in Italy.

Mario Monti and Silvio Berlusconi

After losing the support of Berlusconi’s party, Monti does not have a majority in Parliament anymore. So, he has announced that he will resign as soon as the 2013 budget is approved, which could be already this month. 
Unheard paradox: the technocratic government, appointed because the previous PM resigned, has to resign as well. The ones called to fix the situation are being kicked out. This could happen only in Italy. 
As soon as Monti announced his intention to leave, the Italian stock market crashed and the Italy- Germany spread skyrocketed again. It brings back the good old memories of the last days of the Berlusconi government, just before Monti came into power. 
According to experts’ forecast, Parliament might be dissolved on 21st of December. There you go, that’s the Mayan forecast coming true: it is not the end of the world, but it certainly is a catastrophe for Italy. 
The most absurd thing of all, as hard as it is to find something that is not absurd in this whole story, is that Berlusconi’s party has always fully supported Monti, and that nobody thought about pointing it out to Berlusconi.  
As the Italian journalist Marco Travaglio rightly observed, Berlusconi, just like in the past, will run “an electoral campaign relying entirely on television, with only some alterations for what concerns his targets: instead of the Communists, Merkel and the Euro; instead of the “red judges” (magistrates who persecute him solely because, he claims, they are “Communists”), Monti and his taxes. The fact that the Euro came into place in 2002 under the second Berlusconi government, everyone forgot it. The fact that “People of Freedom” is part of the “European People’s party” together with Merkel’s “Christian Democratic Union”, is a detail for amateurs.  The fact that “People of Freedom” has voted in favour of every bill of the technocratic government, who even remembers that?” 
That’s the biggest fault of the Italian people: short memory.  
According to the latest news, centrist party leaders are now encouraging Monti to run (with them or on his own, it’s still unclear) in the next election. Also Merkel and Hollande seem to wish that Monti will still play a part in Italian politics. 
We don’t know if Monti will run or not, but apparently he is leaving a “memorandum”, a to-do-list for whoever will be his successor, in order to continue the series of reforms he started to steer Italy out of the economic crisis. Good thinking, Monti, write it down: otherwise, we would forget about your memorandum in no time at all.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Berlusconi to run again to be Prime Minister

Our biggest fear has come true. Today Angelino Alfano, who technically is the “leader” of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (as if we did not know who the real leader is), announced that the party will not hold a primary election because Berlusconi is going to run. The reason? A few days ago, Berlusconi himself claimed that he might run “because Italy needs change”.

Does he really need an introduction?

Please let’s take a moment to fully appreciate this statement. Italy needs change. Ergo, the guy that has run for premiership already six times and has dominated Italian politics for almost two decades will run again. This is the funniest joke I have ever heard.
Over the last months, Berlusconi changed his mind about a million times. “I will run for Italy”, “I will take a step back”, “Italy needs me”, “I will leave the party in Alfano’s hands”.
Then, the jail sentence for tax fraud came (see one of my older posts). Back then, he said “I will now retire from politics”.
Shortly after, he changed his mind again: “I will run so that I can change Italian justice”. Thank you Silvio, but what you still seem to forget is that you and “justice” simply cannot appear in the same sentence.  
And now it seems official. Alfano said that if Berlusconi runs, there is no need for a primary election. He simply is the undisputed boss.
I could write pages and pages about the outrageous fact that everywhere else in a democracy a politician who has a jail sentence and another bunch of trials going on would be banned by every party, let alone run for premiership.  Unfortunately, it does not even surprise me anymore that such a thing is allowed in Italy. I simply use a double standard. In the UK, Andrew Mitchell resigned because he insulted a policeman; in Italy, Berlusconi will run because he was found guilty of a crime and he wants to take revenge.
Two parallel universes.
One more hilarious thing about the need of change in Italy: also for the main left-wing party, the Democratic Party, the candidate will be again the current party leader, Pier Luigi Bersani. But at least, he will run because he won the primary election against Matteo Renzi, mayor of Florence.
I will discuss the outstanding Democratic Party primary election in my next post, so stay tuned.