It should not have been a surprise to hear Mario Monti say publically that if asked and if necessary he would continue in government but that he was not going to stand for office.
From the moment he was appointed almost a year ago, there has been speculation about what he would do after the elections. At first, the presumption was that he would “go up the hill”, the Quirinale and take over from President Napolitano whose term ends in May next year but over the last six months there has been increasing speculation that he would continue as prime minister.
If he does stay on, he would not be the first politician to “sacrifice myself for the good of the country” only with Monti, one gets the feeling that he actually means it. Certainly he does not want to jump into the electoral fray and if he does continue, it will be on his own terms.
A second Monti government would be useful for many politicians and some of them are already taking advantage of Monti’s possible second term. The centre has always supported him as have Catholics across the spectrum; so Pierferdinando Casini was explicit last week saying that his centrist UDC would campaign for a “Monti bis” which he repeated again today along with Gianfranco Fini, speaker of the Chamber and leader of Futuro e Libertà. The head of the Italian episcopal conference, Mons. Mariano Crociata was more guarded but gave Monti his implicit support for “any solution to overcome the crisis”. The more secular centre is represented by Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the Ferrari boss. He set up a foundation Italia futura in 2009 which was presumed to be his springboard into politics but he has wavered ever since. Now he says that he will not go into politics himself but will support Monti. All together, the centre might just reach 10%; Casini and the others are hoping that with Monti as the future prime minister, they would do much better.
Angelino Alfano, the nominal leader of Berlusconi’s Popolo della Libertà, (PdL) said today that Monti should declare his candidacy but has made it clear that he and implicitly Berlusconi would prefer a Monti bis to a centre left victory. They seem to be preparing the way to tag along after Monti and maintain some say in both positions and policy for the next government. It is a rational strategy as all the opinion polls suggest that with or without Berlusconi, the PdL would come in a poor second. In any case, they are seriously divided, suffering from the Latium scandals and worried that other regional scandals will further soil the party’s sagging reputation. Like the centrists, they think that by hitching their wagon to a Monti bis, they can do better at the elections and above all after the elections.
Pierluigi Bersani, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) is in a much more difficult position. They are supporting Monti’s government today but are leading in the polls and hope to win the elections. To support Monti today would be to give up before the campaign begins. And Bersani has indeed expressed his admiration for Monti but laid his claim to at least trying to win the elections.
We are a step closer to the date; most likely 7-8 April (not a very difficult calculation given the end of the mandate, the Easter and Pesach holidays and then the 25 April and 1 May holidays). But we are no closer to an electoral system. There is a real risk that Italy will once again vote with the despised fixed party list system known as the porcellum or pig’s dinner. If that happens, turnout will plummet as voter confidence is at an all-time low and to have candidates chosen by the parties will reduce that confidence even further.
We already have Sicilian regional elections at the end of October and now the Interior Minister has said that Latium will vote within 90 days after last week’s dramatic resignation of the president, Renata Polverini. (And Rome will elect a new mayor in spring so we will have a surfeit of elections over the next six months).
One of the new Parliament’s first jobs will be to elect Napolitano’s successor, at the moment the favorite has to be Romano Prodi but obviously the result will depend on Parliament’s composition.
Much lower on the pecking order but much closer in time is the PD’s struggle to work out their own primary system to choose their own leader. Most likely Bersani but by no means certain. The 37 year old Florence mayor, Matteo Renzi, is close on his heels and there are other candidates
The Northern League is trying to re-invent itself after the Bossi family scandals. The new leader, Roberto Maroni has talked about a “renaissance” and “Forza Nord”, hoping to emulate the early Berlusconi success.
Meanwhile, with typical irony, Parliament is addressing a new anti-corruption law unconcerned that a good number of them might fall victim to a serious measure.
So much better to look for the possible winner and his bandwagon.