Tuesday, February 26, 2013


There is village near Agrigento called Kaos, made famous by a Pirandello short story. Now the chaos has spread from Sicily to the whole country and risks going beyond into the rest of Europe.

Opinion polls and reason both suggested that Italy’s best interest was served by a solid, not very imaginative and slightly less severe continuation of last year’s Mario Monti-led reformist government. One which would have led Italy out of recession into not quite green and verdant pastures but at least something more comfortable.

Instead, Italian voters rewarded the two great showmen of Italian politics, both populists and mystifiers, the 76 year old Silvio Berlusconi and the 64 year old Beppe Grillo. Starting more or less from the right and the left their promises and protests convinced more than half the population to vote for them. The electoral system means that the centre left which polled a mite more than Berlusconi will have a big majority in the the Chamber, the lower house but no one will have a majority in the Senate. So the country which most needs stability will not have a government that lasts for more than a few months.

Ethically, politically, ideologically and personally there is no way that a lasting coalition can be formed so new elections seem inevitable. The new Parliament will assemble on 15 March and elect their speakers. Then President Napolitano will consult with party leaders and go through the arcane ritual of government formation. Unless there is some very unusual alchemy between now and then, he will have to ask the PD’s Pierluigi Bersani to try to put together a majority in the Senate. He will not be able to so at best, he or someone else will act as caretaker to elect a new president (elected by both houses and due to begin on 15 April) who will then call new elections.

This is a revolution with two groupings led by a single man controlling the destiny of a country and indirectly a continent. Grillo’s Five Star Movement has now spokesman or clear mechanism for deciding on policy – it might dissolve in a few weeks, it might develop an independent statute or it might stay under Grillo’s direct control.

And when Italians go back to vote maybe in June, maybe in Autumn, if the older parties don’t succeed in addressing the issues, then the populists will do even better, the cost of Italy’s debt will spiral out of control and the whole euro system will be threatened. Chaos.

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