Monday, December 9, 2013

Matteo Renzi is elected new leader of the Democratic Party

So many things worth writing about have happened in Italy over the last weeks, that my poor neglected blog could never possibly cover them (I blame my final year at uni, it leaves me no free time at all!). Just to mention a few: Berlusconi launched his new/old party Forza Italia, and the party has left the government; the Italian Constitutional Court ruled that the Italian electoral system (see is “unconstitutional” (this comes only 8 years late, considering that we have had the “Porcellum” since 2005); Beppe Grillo organised his third “V-Day” (the V standing for a swear word that I will not repeat here that means “f**k off”- classy, I know) to protest against the whole Italian establishment; and I’m guessing much more that my brain is too tired to recall.
I have decided to take a break to discuss something that, for once, is a) not Berlusconi-related and b) quite encouraging news.
Yesterday, 8th December 2013, the Democratic Party held an open primary to elect its new party leader. There were three contesters: Gianni Cuperlo, Giuseppe Civati and Matteo Renzi. Renzi won with an overwhelmingly big majority (about 67%). 

Matteo Renzi

Among the three, Cuperlo was the only one representing a link with the old left that stood by and watched Berlusconi do his business for the last 20 years, and therefore not necessarily popular at the moment. Civati, on the other hand, while being ideologically more left-wing than winner Renzi, shares some features with him. They both belong to the “thirty-year-old generation”, and they both promise a generational change and a new managing class. Renzi’s triumph is something that had been long anticipated (see, and it’s a clear signal to the whole political class. The 5 Star Movement is still strong, but there are people who still believe in mainstream politics to change things.
Matteo Renzi, mayor of Florence, is only 38 and has been given a once-in-a-lifetime chance, as he himself acknowledged today on his Facebook page, thanking for this opportunity.
Renzi became famous in Italy for being “il rottamatore” (“the scrapper”) for his long standing calls to renew and clean up the Italian political system. Among the people he openly admires, there are Barack Obama and Tony Blair.
Indeed, today the BBC published an article titled “Italy’s Tony Blair?”, as it is clear that Renzi’s leadership will involve a shift to the centre. The obvious consideration is that if you think Tony Blair destroyed the Labour party, you are unlikely to like Renzi either. On the other hand, if you believe that Tony Blair’s Third Way is the right way to go, you might find Renzi a promising leader.
This is a passage from the profile the BBC made of Renzi:

“Mr Renzi presents himself as a break with the past in every way. He exudes a restless energy. He likes to pace the stage in black jeans and a white shirt. He is relaxed and easy - fast and fluent as he speaks without notes, ranging across Italy's many problems, and offering broad-brush solutions. He always seeks to instil a belief that politics can be done differently, that change is possible.
He finished a recent televised debate by saying he would offer something very rare in Italy: "Hope."
"People are weary and disillusioned," he said. "They don't believe anymore. I believe, and that's why I do politics - because I still believe."

I, for once, want to be hopeful. I need to be hopeful, because it’s just getting too heart-breaking not see any light at all for Italy. I’m not, and I have never been, affiliated with the Democratic Party, but even only the fact that now it has a young, clean face makes me want to be, at least a little, optimistic.
Renzi, show us what you can do.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Berlusconi says his family feels “like Jews under Hitler”

So, now it’s definitely proved: Berlusconi physically can’t stay too long without saying something unbelievably stupid and absurd, something that can make the headlines all around the world and make me feel like never leaving the house again.
I am little late in publishing this, but it still is worth mentioning.
Four days ago, Silvio Berlusconi shocked the whole world by claiming that he is so persecuted that his kids “feel like Jews under Hitler”, because of the Italian judiciary that “persecutes” him even if he is innocent, and that makes his family feel like “the whole world is against them”.

Berlusconi with his family

Apart from the completely inappropriate remark, the sad thing is that it was not his first one. He had already claimed that Mussolini “never killed anyone” because he just “sent people on holiday”, and that the racial laws were “Mussolini’s only fault” (see
Now, I am trying to imagine what would happen here in the UK if a politician, any politician, said something of that sort. I can already picture the criticizing headlines of all newspapers and the condemning speeches of all party leaders, not to mention the critics from the public.  Yet, in Italy, even the Jewish community did not react as strongly as we would expect it to do elsewhere.
It’s so depressing to see that in Italy we became so unresponsive that we will be able to forget even this new outrage. Lately, I got really mad when I saw plenty of people on Facebook angrily protesting against a tax increase on beer but closing both eyes on any other thing. Should I deduce that it is more insulting to levy a tax on beer than to compare one’s trials with the Holocaust?

Honestly, what kind of a country does that make us? Maybe we just deserve our political class, after all. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

The New York Times: "Italy breaks your heart"- it certainly breaks mine

Over the last days, an article published by The New York Times titled “Italy breaks your heart” has gone viral on social networks in Italy.
I read the whole article and found it sadly realistic. However, the part that struck me the most is the following:

“Italy is what happens when a country knows full well what its problems are but can’t summon the discipline and will to fix them. It’s what happens when political dysfunction grinds on and on and good governance becomes a mirage, a myth, a joke. [...] There’s so much beauty and promise here, and so much waste. Italy breaks your heart.”

And it’s so true: Italy does break my heart.

It breaks my heart a little every time that, during a Politics lecture, Italy comes up as the bad example for any single issue (media, electoral system, government stability- you name it, Italy is a bad example).
It breaks my heart when I open the webpage of the BBC and I find headlines regarding Berlusconi’s trials, or a government crisis, or yet another corruption scandal. Not to mention the heartbreak when I turn to Italian newspapers.
It breaks my heart when I suddenly feel homesick and I wish I could be there to enjoy the good food and the sun, but then I realise that, even when I do go back, I feel like leaving after two days because I can’t even stand to watch a whole news bulletin without getting a stomach ache.
It breaks my heart when I see pictures of beautiful cities like Florence, Venice or Rome, and I feel a surge of pride, but then I think that all those wonderful places would deserve a better country.
And, above all, it really, deeply, truly breaks my heart when people question me on the defensive “So you really don’t want to move back here?”, as if I were just being difficult and as if it were easy for me to be away from my friends and family.
I realise that this is just another nostalgic rant from an expat. But The New York Times managed to capture in one sentence exactly what watching Italy sink does to you: it breaks your heart. And as popular wisdom has it, it takes time to mend a broken heart. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Berlusconi (eventually) supports Letta’s government in a confidence vote

I haven’t been writing much lately, but definitely not for lack of things to talk about. In fact, now there are too many things to talk about. I honestly don’t even know where to pick up from, so this post will be more a general consideration than a detailed account of events.
Over the last weeks, we have seen the uncontested protagonist of Italian politics, Silvio Berlusconi, threatening (again) to withdraw his support to Enrico Letta’s executive.

Enrico Letta & Silvio Berlusconi

The reason why Berlusconi claimed he would leave the coalition was, supposedly, a fight over IVA (the Italian VAT, “value added tax”). After celebrating his victory following the abolition of IMU (see, Berlusconi piled on it by stating that he would not tolerate an IVA increase. Too bad that Letta’s government, after giving in on IMU, noticed that they were still in need of tax revenue. So rumours about an IVA increase became more and more sound (and it is actually in place now).
At some point, Letta openly said that he would ask Parliament for a confidence vote, because he was not going to waste his time if he did not enough support.
Berlusconi took the IVA excuse to blackmail Parliament one more time. This whole argument in fact originated because Berlusconi, following a definitive jail sentence for tax fraud, is facing expulsion from the Senate. The dedicated Senate commission had already voted once in favour of his decay. What Berlusconi was clearly saying was “Either you save me, or I will end your government”. That’s just how much blackmail potential he still has (and this is without a doubt the worst aspect of a grand coalition in Italy).
So, Berlusconi said until the very end that he would deny the confidence. But when the actual vote took place, last Wednesday, it was pure chaos. He insisted in voting no. But then, and this is a real unprecedented episode, his party divided on the subject: a faction led by secretary Angelino Alfano claimed that they would vote in favour of Letta despite what Berlusconi said. The party held a meeting and, after a morning spent going back and forward, Berlusconi eventually announced that they would vote “yes” in the confidence vote.
So, in the end, the government is still there, still potentially blackmailed by the same person. To quote a famous line from the Italian movie “Il Gattopardo”: “Everything must change, so that everything can stay the same”.
However, something that I found shocking actually happened this time: The People of Freedom did not stand blindly by Berlusconi’s side, for once. Both Berlusconi’s old party Forza Italia and the current People of Freedom are the perfect example of a 100% personalized party: they simply could not exist  without him. And yet, this time something went differently. Either they reconcile, or the party will probably split into those remaining loyal to the leader and those going on to form a new group.

And finally: as expected, yesterday morning the Senate commission voted again in favour of Berlusconi’s decadence from his senatorial title. Now, for what I understood, he will face a vote from the whole Senate. We are all waiting to see if at least something will change, this time. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Berlusconi's appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

As you might have already heard, Berlusconi is appealling to the European Court of Human Rights following his prison sentence for tax fraud. His lawyers sent the Court a file called "Silvio Berlusconi against Italy", in which they are contesting both the conviction and the possibility that Parliament will kick him out. Ironically, Berlusconi should lose his senatorial title according to the "Severino Law", an anti-corruption law which was approved during Monti's government and which was voted for also by Berlusconi's party. Among other things, it also forbids convicted people from sitting in Parliament. All parties, included The People of Freedom, used this law to prevent some convicted politicians from running in the last election, as they all pushed for the so-called "clean lists" (probably just trying to get some more votes). But now that it actually applies to Berlusconi, his party decided that the law should not be retrospective. 
Starting from today, a Senate commission will examine the issue of Berlusconi's "decadence", to use the literal translation. Everything will depend on the Democratic Party, as voting for Berlusconi's expulsion would imply that the grand coalition will fall apart.

But if the Italian Parliament is weak enough to save him, I highly doubt that we should expect the same from the European Court of Human Rights. In fact, here is the reaction we might get from the Strarsbourg Court:

(Image from the blog of satiric pictures Colorz, "graphic appendix"of the collective satiric blog Spinoza. Highly recommended to anyone who speaks Italian)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

President Napolitano appoints four new life senators- and Berlusconi isn’t one of them

A couple of days ago, the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano unexpectedly nominated four new life senators. The Italian Senate is indeed made of about 95% popularly elected senators on a five-year mandate, and a remaining minority of life appointed peers (Mario Monti, former technocratic PM, was the last one to be appointed in 2011).
The four new life senators are:
  •          former Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra director Claudio Abbado (top left)
  •          stem cell researcher  Elena Cattaneo (top right)
  •          architect Renzo Piano (bottom right)
  •         Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carlo Rubbia (bottom left)

These four personalities will, according to Napolitano, act in “absolute independence” and bring their contributions to highly significant areas in institutional life.
Berlusconi’s party The People of Freedom harshly criticised the appointment of these four senators for two main reasons.
First of all, because Silvio Berlusconi is not one of them. Life senators enjoy a series of privileges, including some legal immunity, which might have once again saved Berlusconi (who is facing a prison sentence for tax fraud and awaiting another verdict for the charge of child prostitution). But President Napolitano, by leaving him off the list, seems to clearly send the message that Berlusconi will receive no special treatment.
Secondly, The People of Freedom protested because all four new senators have somehow been critical towards Berlusconi in the past, even though they never openly aligned themselves with the centre-left.
If the four of them turn out to vote in favour of the Democratic Party in the Senate, this could change the numbers in the upper chamber in quite a significant way: now the leftist Democratic Party would need merely 7 votes in order to have a majority that does not include Berlusconi’s party. 7 votes are really not that many, and it is likely that at least 7 “dissidents” from Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement would be willing to vote with the Democratic Party.
It is worth noticing one more time the anomaly of Italian politics: only in Italy someone could actually complain because a convicted person was not made life senator. A normal country would be relieved.  
Daniela Santanchè, People of Freedom MP and adviser, stated: “Congratulations to the four nominees.  But I am deeply sorry for the only one who should have been awarded the life senator honour and was not, that is Silvio Berlusconi. He would have been the best and the most qualified and deserving person. Without taking anything away from the four new life senators, I think that they are not comparable to Berlusconi”.

That’s right: they are indeed so not comparable. Don’t even try to compare them.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Berlusconi’s party celebrates the abrogation of Imu (forgetting about the new “Service Tax”)

So, Berlusconi was sentenced to prison for tax fraud. Parliament has to vote concerning the possible loss of his senatorial title. The very survival of his party The People of Freedom is clearly linked to what will happen to the leader. Hence, we might expect both Berlusconi and his party to be on the edge of despair. Right?
Wrong. They are, in fact, celebrating a “victory” regarding the government’s decision to abolish a property tax, the “Imu”, introduced in 2011 by Monti’s technocrats.
This is a “victory” for Berlusconi because he actually based his whole electoral campaign on the absurd promise to cancel, and even to pay back, the Imu tax.  His party has been pressuring the government for months, threatening to withdraw their support, if they did not abolish the Imu. PM Enrico Letta finally gave in.

And we saw plenty of tweets, statements,  and any other sort of announcements celebrating the success of The People of Freedom’s pledge. Angelino Alfano, party’s secretary, tweeted: “Now the word “Imu” will disappear from dictionaries”.
What Berlusconi and his minions seem to have casually left out is the fact that the Imu is far from disappearing. What actually happened is that the government replaced Imu with a “Service Tax”. Imu was a property tax; the Service Tax, which will become law in 2014, is instead a tax levied by local authorities on the use of local services, as the name itself explains. The Democratic Party called it a “federal tax”, as the national government will not take blame if its revenue is not spent efficiently. Since this a tax not on property but on services, also tenants paying rent will be liable to pay for it.
But anyway, the fact that the actual word “Imu” will disappear is enough to claim victory for The People of Freedom.  And while they rejoice thinking of the votes they might win back, the government still has no idea about how to tackle the huge revenue gap (approximately €4bn) they are left with.

As the Financial Times accurately put it: “Il Cavaliere, as ever, has played clever politics. But while he may claim victory against rivals, Italy is once again the loser”. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Berlusconi's prison sentence for tax fraud upheld by Italy's highest court

Yesterday the Corte di Cassazione, Italy's highest court, confirmed Berlusconi's prison sentence that last October found him guilty of tax evasion in the trade of TV rights by his company Mediaset.

Berlusconi in yesterday's video message

After a meeting that lasted about 7 hours, the court firstly ordered a further judicial review, that will have to be carried out by a minor court, on whether Berlusconi should be banned from public office. Banishment from public office  was in this case the so-called "additional penalty", which goes along with the prison terms and that will now be recalculated by another appeal court.
This initial announcement of postponement for what concerns Berlusconi's ability to remain in office momentarily caused a huge misunderstanding, which saw a bunch of Berlusconi's supporters celebrating outside the court, just as if he had been acquitted.
Then, the main pronouncement came, permanently confirming his sentence to 4 years in prison (automatically reduced to one year under a 2006 pardon law promulgated by the left coalition).
Later yesterday, Berlusconi appeared in a video statement where he criticised the court decision as "genuine judicial harassment that is unmatched in the civilised world".
Even if the sentence is now been confirmed in the later judicial stage, Berlusconi, who is 76, is unlikely to go to jail because of his age. He is likely to serve house arrest or to carry out community service.
We are now waiting to find out the consequences that this sentence will have on the government, in which Berlusconi's party is a main coalition partner.
Needless to say, everywhere else in the world Berlusconi would be thrown out by Parliament and even by his own party.  Unfortunately, this is not to be taken for granted in Italy, a country brainwashed by Berlusconi's fairytales of mean Communist magistrates persecuting the greatest statesman ever. In yesterday's message, the former PM claimed indeed that he would not "give up his fight for freedom".
Nevertheless, being this a definitive sentence, it is to become enforceable right away (we'll see how quickly). Berlusconi remains a Senator for now, but he will likely lose his well-known title of "Knight" ("Cavaliere") awarded by the Order of Merit for Labour.

Link to (part of) Berlusconi's video message:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Giorgio Gaber, "Io non mi sento Italiano" translation: "I do not feel Italian"

Recently I have been listening to a few songs by Giorgio Gaber. Gaber was an Italian songwriter that I had always heard of, but I’ll admit that I knew almost nothing about him. Shame on me.

This song, “Io non mi sento Italiano”, was contained in an album of the same name released in 2003, shortly after Gaber’s death. Despite being written about a decade ago, I think that many people can still relate to it. I decided to translate it because, as an expat, it perfectly applies to me. Hope you will enjoy it. 

"I do not feel Italian" by Giorgio Gaber

I, G. G, was born and live in Milan.
I do not feel Italian
But fortunately or unfortunately I am.

I'm sorry, President
It is not my fault
But this country of ours
I do not know what it is.
Maybe I am wrong
Maybe it is a good idea
But I fear it might turn into
A bad poem.
I'm sorry, President
I do not really need
The national anthem
Of which I am a little ashamed
Since our football players
(I do not want to judge)
They either do not know it
Or they have more decency (than other football players)

I do not feel Italian
But fortunately or unfortunately I am.

I'm sorry, President
If I am so bold
To say that I do not feel
Any belonging here.
Except Garibaldi
And some other glorious heroes
I see no reason
To be proud.
I'm sorry, President
But I think of the fanaticism
Of the black shirts
In the time of Fascism
From which one day 
This democracy was born
And it takes imagination 
To congratulate her

I do not feel Italian
But fortunately or unfortunately I am.
This beautiful country
Full of poetry
Has many demands
But in our western world
Is just the periphery.

I'm sorry, President
But this State of ours
That you represent
It seems a little wrecked.
It's even too clear
In the eyes of the people
That everything is planned
And nothing works.
It might be that Italians
According to old traditions
Are too obsessed
About any discussion.
Even in parliament
The atmosphere is explosive
They fight about everything
And then nothing ever changes.

I do not feel Italian
But fortunately or unfortunately I am.

I'm sorry, President
You must agree
That the limits we have
Need to be told.
But beside the defeatism
We are what we are
And we also have a past
That we do not forget.
I'm sorry, President
But maybe we Italians
To other people are only
Spaghetti and mandolins.
So here I get pissed
I am proud and I brag
I tell right to their face
What the Renaissance is.

I do not feel Italian
But fortunately or unfortunately I am.

This beautiful country
Might not be too wise
(and) Has confused ideas
But if I were born elsewhere
It could have been worse.

I'm sorry, President
Now I have said many things
There is another consideration 
Which I think is important.
Compared to foreigners
We believe less
But maybe we have understood
That the world is a farce.
I'm sorry, President
I know you do not rejoice
If the cry "Italy, Italy"
Is heard only at football games.
But in part not to die
Or in part as a joke
We have made Europe
Now let’s also make Italy.

I do not feel Italian
But fortunately or unfortunately I am.

I do not feel Italian
But fortunately or unfortunately
Fortunately or unfortunately

Fortunately I am.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Northern League Senator Calderoli compares black Minister Kyenge to an orang-utan

About 6 weeks ago, I wrote how a petition presented to the European Parliament led to the expulsion of Northern League MEP Mario Borghezio. Borghezio sparked outrage for his racist remarks about Italy’s first black Minister, Cecile Kyenge.
On Saturday, Kyenge was insulted by another Northern League leader, vice-president of the Senate Roberto Calderoli (I have already mentioned Calderoli a few times, as he is the author of the “Porcellum”, Italy’s much criticised electoral system).

                                           Roberto Calderoli          Cecile Kyenge

Senator Calderoli, speaking at a political rally in Treviglio, claimed: “I love animals- bears and wolves as it is well-known- but when I see images of Kyenge I cannot help think, even though I’m not saying that she is one, of the resemblance to an orang-utan”.  
He added that she should be a Minister but in her own country (Kyenge is originally from Congo, but has been an Italian citizen for several years), and that she makes many clandestine immigrants coming to Italy dream about “America”.
Reactions from all political parties shortly followed, all condemning Calderoli’s statement. Even President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano said he was “indignant”.
Some members of the Democratic Party, including leader Epifani, called for Calderoli’s resignation.
Calderoli then tried to justify himself by claiming that his remarks were “just a bad joke”, and he apologised to Kyenge over the phone. She accepted his apology, but she also said that the matter remains unsolved on the institutional level.
Just like Borghezio, Calderoli has been known for his racist attitude for a while now. For instance, in 2006 he wore a t-shirt with the infamous Muhammad cartoons, causing some protesters in Lybia to attack the Italian Embassy. In 2007, to show his opposition to the building of a mosque in Bologna, he brought a pig to the designated site.  And many more. Just google his name for plenty of appalling anecdotes.

There is now an on-going petition addressed to the President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, asking him to have a vote over Calderoli’s resignation. Here’s the link:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Berlusconi's party stops Parliament for 24 hours to discuss his court ruling over tax fraud sentence

Back to Berlusconi’s trials again (I know, it's hard to keep track of them all).
We are now referring to the tax fraud sentence of his company Mediaset. Berlusconi was sentenced to 4 years for inflating the prices of movies the company bought in order to avoid taxes. He turned to the appeal court, and now Italy's highest court (the Court of Cassation) has set 30 July as the date for the hearing, a much earlier date than expected.
The Court explained that they had to choose such an early date because, according to the law, they had to prevent the statute of limitations from expiring on one of the charges.
Following that announce, Berlusconi’s lawyers claimed that this was an attack on the defence’s rights. His party’s The People of Freedom went beyond, claiming that this was a “coup d’état towards the government, Italy and democracy”. In other words, they are acting as if the court were doing this merely to convict Berlusconi.
Yesterday, The People of Freedom asked Parliament for an interruption of work, in order to discuss the case within the party.

It was a real political earthquake. The Democratic Party eventually had to accede, and both the Chambers of Deputies and the Senate stopped working for 24 hours, despite the protests of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement.
It wasn’t an easy decision for the Democratic Party, which is really divided on the topic (as on any other topic, for what matters). Leader Epifani defined The People of Freedom’s request as “unacceptable and irresponsible”, but then tried to minimize the whole episode.
On the one hand, they had to give in because Berlusconi’s party is in government with them. On the other hand, they are looking worse each day. In any other country, someone like Berlusconi would have been voted out of Parliament a long time ago. In Italy, it is not even sure what will happen if a conviction actually is upheld.
Berlusconi’s party is threatening a government crisis if he is convicted. The Democratic Party is threatening to vote in favour of the conviction if it does take place. Long story short, everyone has something they can use to threaten their opponents. Parliament might not be blocked now, but that changed very little. It is still, only, discussing Berlusconi’s affairs. While the country sinks.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Berlusconi sentenced to 7 years and banned from public office in "Ruby" sex trial

In Italy, we are used to Berlusconi’s trials. Yet, they are still worth discussing.
Just last month, an appeals court confirmed his sentence for tax fraud over deals made by his TV firm Mediaset (
Today, the Milan Court sentenced him to 7 years in jail and banned him from public office for life, after finding him guilty of child prostitution and abuse of power.

 Silvio Berlusconi, Karima El Mahroug ("Ruby")

According to the Court, Berlusconi paid to have sex with a Moroccan girl, Karima El Mahroug (known as Ruby “the heart-stealer”), when she was only 17 (and he was aware of her age). He also allegedly pressured the Milan central police station in order to have her released when she was arrested for theft in May 2010. This episode became particularly famous in Italy, because in order to have her free Berlusconi said one of his most colossal lies: he told the police station to let her go because she was Mubarak’s niece (Mubarak being the former Egyptian president) and they had to avoid a diplomatic incident.
Berlusconi will not spend time in jail unless the sentence is confirmed by the appeals court, and this would take a very long time. Nevertheless, this sentence is historical for Italy because it will certainly have major repercussions on the current government, a grand coalition that cannot survive without the support of Berlusconi’s party.
A few days ago an MP from The People of Freedom claimed that the whole party would resign in case of a conviction. Even if this does not happen, the leftist Democratic Party will be asked to explain how they intend to remain in government with The People of Freedom, now that Berlusconi has been sentenced in (another) trial.
Berlusconi’s sentence is the most attention-grabbing recent event in Italian politics. Letta’s government is doing very little but stalling (see the Financial Times “Letta’s lethargy”).
Now, in a country where government crises happen for much less, this sentence may bring us back to the polls even earlier than we expected. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mario Borghezio expelled from European Parliamentary Group for racist comments

If nothing has been posted on this blog over the last weeks, it certainly isn't for lack of things to talk about: it was that time of the year when university students in the UK have no choice but spending all their time studying for their finals. But finals are over now, and I finally have time to write again. 
So many things happened in Italy over this last month that I'm not even going to try to cover everything now. Some of the major pieces of news would only sound out of date, such as the death of Giulio Andreotti, former PM and main protagonist of the (many) year of Christian Democrats hegemony in the postwar period. Then there was the appointment of the new leader of the Democratic Party, Guglielmo Epifani, following Bersani's resignation. Then the new judicial hearings of Berlusconi's trial, in which he is accused of child prostitution. Then the local elections and the impressive turnout decline. 
Voting behaviour and turnout are in fact one of the aspects of political science that I enjoy the most, and I had been expecting a fall in turnout in Italy for a while now. Italy has a record of really high turnout rates, but disengagement from politics and the idea that politicians are "all the same" usually lead to the feeling that your vote does not change anything, and as a consequence many people do not bother to vote. The Italian public has undoubtedly grown alienated about their representatives, and this has indeed really been a dramatic decrease in turnout, which was down by 20% in some cases. Now some cities will have to go back to the polls for the second ballot to choose their mayor, included the capital Rome and my hometown Brescia. 
However, the breaking news I am interested in today is the expulsion of Mario Borghezio from the European Parliament. I'll admit that I myself signed the petition that led to his suspension and then to his expulsion, and I think that this is a very positive sign for democracy. 
Mario Borghezio
Mario Borghezio, 65, is a member of the Northern League, and he had been a MEP since 2001.
Borghezio has been involved in some highly controversial episodes. He has been seen “disinfecting” train seats after immigrants had been sitting on them; in 2005, he was found guilty of arson, for setting fire to the pallets of some migrants sleeping under a bridge in Turin; in 2011, he even seemed to justify Anders Breivik’s massacre by claiming that it was due to Norway’s multi-racial society. He was temporarily suspended by his party for these last remarks, but I bet that in any other country they would be enough to sign the end of a political career.
Lately, he made himself known for insulting the new Minister for Integration, Congolese-born Cecile Kyenge. He claimed that she was “a s**t choice”, that she looked like a “housewife”, that she would impose “tribal traditions” in Italy and that Enrico Letta’s government is a “bonga bonga” government (I wouldn’t even know how to translate that, but I guess that is not necessary). 
A petition started from the Italian think tank Articolo21 asking for Borghezio’s resignation was signed by more than 130.000 people, and in May it was presented to European Parliament President Martin Schulz, who claimed that Borghezio’s words about Kyenge were “unacceptable”. 
Following that, Borghezio was suspended by the Eurosceptic group “Europe of Freedom and Democracy”. Today, it has been officially announced that the group expelled him.
What I find somehow ironic is that the party which was crucial in determining Borghezio’s expulsion is the British UKIP. UKIP in Italy is considered as the British counterpart of the Northern League (a racist, anti-immigration party). Yet, its leader Nigel Farage was the one who made the formal proposal to vote for Borghezio’s expulsion, which was achieved with a majority of over two-thirds. 
A small victory for participatory democracy, which hopefully will both restore (at least some) of people’s faith in politics and stop other politicians from following Borghezio’s steps.