Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dangerous liaisons
There was something profoundly depressing watching the style, expertise and control of the two cavalry squadrons performing on Monday night in Rome. Maybe a hundred horses and riders wheeled charged and feinted in a breathtaking series of manoeuvres, trotting, cantering, galloping in near perfect unison in close order with sabres drawn.
Then the camera cuts to two elderly men for whom the spectacle is being enacted, Muammar Ghedaffi and Silvio Berlusconi. They are enthroned under an awning and the contrast between them and the men and horses they are watching is striking as neither have the style and control of the animals of the carabinieri. It was a show that deserved a more worthy audience.
For the fourth time in just over a year, Ghedaffi was back in Rome. Not surprisingly, most of the comment concentrated on the circus aspect. This time the Libyan Ghedaffi’s inevitable trademark tent was apparently pitched in the embassy grounds. This time, some hundreds of young women were paid to listen to the Colonel extolling the virtues of a rather unorthodox Islam and trying to convert them. The women were somewhere between film extras, “hostesses” and even, according to some accounts “escorts” a very loaded word in today’s Italy.
Whatever they did with Ghedaffi, he outdid his host in numbers at least. Berlusconi’s parties in Palazzo Grazioli are much more limited affairs with a mere twenty or thrity lovelies to listen to his speeches and songs. But their taste in company unites the two men along with the surgical enhancement which both exhibit most visibly.
Aside from the personal foibles, there are very solid national and personal economic interests which they have in common. The visit was meant to celebrate the second anniversary of the 2008 Italo-Libyan treaty. This recompensed Libya for damages incurred under colonial rule (a precedent that Britain and France or even the other colonial powers did not appreciate) but in return gave Italy guarantees of oil and supply contracts and prevented immigrants in transit from reaching Italy. It was a typical piece of realpolitik and no worse than many other deals that Britain and France (or the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Germany) have come to with unsavoury dictators.
The difference is the way that Ghedaffi has been treated by Berlusconi. However embarassing it was for Britain to honour Ceaucescu or Giscard’s France to honour Bokassa, they only did it once, not four times in 15 months. More importantly, neither Queen Elizabeth not Giscard were personal business partners.
Already a year ago, John Hooper in The Guardian pointed out that Berlusconi’s Finivest and Ghedaffi’s Lafitrade were shareholders in the Tunisian media company Quinta Communications..
Before this last visit, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs denied the link which even Berlusconi’s own companies publish “We repeat, there are no relations whatsoever between the prime minister and the business group he created with President Qaddafi or with the Libyan state”.
Apart from the Colonel, Berlusconi has another very equivocal and even closer friendship with Vladimir Putin. Last October, he spent two days with the Russian prime minister accompanied by a single deputy as interpreter. There were no civil servants from the Cabinet office, neither minister for foreign affairs nor economy. No public statements were made as to the nature of the meetings but the business was so important that Berlusconi put off his departure for a day cancelling a longstanding engagement with King Abdullah of Jordan who was on a state visit to Italy. We know about the gas deals with ENI but we have no idea what (if any) private deals Berlusconi has come to. Paolo Guzzanti, a journalist and deputy and formerly loyal supporter, called Berlusconi’s foreign policy “like Louis XIV’s”. With Ghedaffi there are probably no side deals but again we cannot be sure.
Ghedaffi, Putin and Berlusconi are populists who feel that they have an absolute mandate from “the people” and all three make little distinction between what is public and what is their own private interest.
At the risk of being pedantic, it is worth pointing out that Ghedaffi is officially neither head of state or head of government; he was actually introduced as “leader of the revolution”. Berlusconi is head of government but not head of state. Foreign policy is also created out of symbols and theatre and the Ghedaffi Show was excessive by any standards at least in western Europe. It did show once again how Berlusconi’s personal diplomacy trumps Italian interests and good taste.
Next week the Finnish president will be in Rome on a state visit. She is here to promote Finland from Nokia to reindeer ham to Sibelius with Italy for its part wanting to increase economic and cultural relations but I think we can be pretty sure that it will be a low key affair on both sides. She will give a talk at the Accademia de’ Lincei, one of the oldest and most prestigious Italian centres of culture. Her audience will be staid, middle aged and unpaid and she will not be trying to convert anyone. And then there will be a reception at the Finnish Academy with the Italian head of state, President Napolitano. Villa Lante is one of the most beautiful of the foreign academies and the one with the best view but there will be no reindeer cavalcades on the Janiculum.
Quite apart from the impropriety of giving full honours to a dictator and allowing him to use Rome as his own private Disneyland (as the Fini thinktank, FareFuturo said), it is also a dangerous and counterproductive policy even without taking morals and human rights into account. Ghedaffi’s attempts to proseletise have alienated the Vatican and the Northern League neither of which are keen on a Muslim Italy. His treatment of immigrants trying to reach Italy also goes against Church policy. As for the economic interests, given Ghedaffi’s age and the uncertainty of his succession, it might not be good for Italy to be seen to be too close to Ghedaffi personally. And even in the short term, there are many Italian business people and economists who are nervous at the idea of Ghedaffi being a majority shareholder in major Italian financial institutions and businesses.
It is interesting that FareFuturo has explicitly asked Berlusconi to clarify his relationship with both Putin and Ghedaffi. After all, its sponsor, Gianfranco Fini, was foreign minister for a time. This does not bode well for the government’s future – for the moment the warring factions for August have decided that discretion is the better part of valour. Berlusconi does not want to risk a fight with Napolitano in order to call early elections and he does not want to risk being overtaken by Bossi and the League if there are elections. Fini is bruised after the Berlusconi press attacks with more revelations threatened and he is not at all sure that he could fight an elections at short notice. So for the moment, Berlusconi will have his vote of confidence in September but the future is anything but clear.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Salami tactics – Berlusconi’s legacy
Once again the opposition smells blood, Berlusconi’s blood, and hopes grow that the nightmare might be ending. On Friday he came back to Rome to chair a party summit to deal with the Fini secession – he looked terrible; puffy and bloated, visibily overweight and spouting fire and brimstone more in anger than coherence. He no longer has an absolute majority in the Chamber and risks losing it in the Senate too; his party, the PdL is rating 28% in the polls compared to the 38% they won in 2008. But not for the first time, it would be unwise to write off Silvio Berlusconi quite yet (if only because of the lack of serious, organised opposition – but that will be another blog).
But it is the moment to once again try and measure what Berlusconi has done to Italy and how much will remain, whether he leaves the political scene before Christmas or instead wins another general election, does another stint as prime minister and then retires in his eighties after seven years as President.
His declared political aims have always been clear; for the last 16 years, Berlusconi has complained about the prime minister’s lack of power and his persecution by “politically motivated” magistrates. For a decade and a half, he has tried to build his own executive powers based on the “sovereignty of the people” expressed through their elected leader. As such he is as he famously said “anointed by the people”, a latterday and supposedly democratic absolute monarch. But it hasn’t happened; there has been no cathartic, revolutionary change either in the written constitution or even, notwithstanding a landslide of remarks by Berlusconi’s spokespeople over the last few days, in the unwritten constitution.
His other declared political aims include introducing business “freedom” and reducing the role and weight of the state. But there has been no Thatcherite revolution either but this is more because he is actually not that interested in a real free market.
His undeclared aims were and still are to protect himself from criminal prosecution and to benefit his own businesses. In these, he has largely succeeded at least for himself. With minor exceptions, he has never been convicted of any crime; either by decriminalising the action (false accounting) or by using delaying tactics. His many charges have been dropped either because the action is no longer a crime or because the statute of limitations has come in. Despite laws to help some of them, his friends and associates have not been so lucky. The co-founder of the PdL, Dell’Utri has just been sentenced to 7 years for mafia-related crimes by the Appeal Court. His longtime lawyer Cesare Previti was convicted to seven and a half years for bribing a lawyer; his English lawyer, Mills also has an Appeal Court sentence for perjury. His brother Paolo has been in goal and his company’s chief accountant Sciascia was also convicted. Berlusconi has needed all his wiles to avoid his own conviction.
On the material benefit, his first government in 1994 passed a law within a month of taking office which gave his companies a €129m tax write off. This year Mondadori benefited from another bill specifically aimed at the giant publisher.
But whoever succeeds Berlusconi is unlikely to have the same problems with the criminal law or possess the same wealth. The lasting effects of his personalisation of politics has already taken effect in the wider privatisation of both the criminal law and material benefit as Marco Travaglio has catalogued in his recent book Ad personam. This lists measures which have given material or legal advantage to friends and followers on the left and right, a change which is expensive to the exchequer and debases the law.
Even more insidious and dangerous are the effects on the fabric of Italian democracy. Six years ago, Paul Ginsborg wrote that some reforms “designed to change the very character of Italy’s democracy and its fragile balance of powers are forging ahead. The autonomy of the magistrates is in the process of being destroyed. The devolution envisaged by Bossi will create a series of regional baronies. The composition of the Constitutional Court is to be changed. The powers of the premier are to be greatly increased, so as to establish his ascendancy not just over parliament but, if need be, over his own majority as well” (Silvio Berlusconi. Television, Power and Patrimony 2004: 182).
It is testimony to the strength of Italian democracy that magistrates continue to investigate Berlusconi and other politicians, that Italy has not been divided up into a neo-mediæval collection of fiefs and that a year ago the Constitutional Court was again able to declare immunity from criminal charges for the prime minister to be unconstitutional.
In 2002, the Milan prosecuter and leader of the “Clean Hands” investigation, Francesco Saverio Borrelli, retired and in his final speech exhorted his colleagues to “resist, resist, resist”. Since then, they have fought hard and long and certainly prevented the final end of the rule of law. But they and the other powers which make up Italian democracy have been forced to retreat.
Unable to overcome democratic pluralism with a frontal attack, Berlusconi has taken his cue from one of Italy’s most famous products and uses salame tactics. He has sliced away at Italian polyarchy, the word coined by the great scholar of democracy, Robert Dahl.
Before Ginsborg’s remarks, Italian pluralism had been reduced by Berlusconi’s concentration of political and media power. Since then it has been further reduced by an electoral law in which parliamentarians are wholly beholden to their parties and not to their electorate. The supposedly independent authorities meant to monitor broadcasting, privacy and so on, have been made even more toothless by pressure from the majority in Parliament and by Berlusconi himself. Most dangerous is the reduction in the independent power of the magistrature’s governing body, the High Council of the Magistrature (and this with the connivence of the opposition). Both the print media and television have been very largely muzzled apart from Berlusconi’s own family media which on the contrary have been unleashed in vicious campaigns against all opposition from the Bishops’ Conference daily editor, Dino Boffo, to the Chamber Speaker, Gianfranco Fini.
Which brings us back to politics today. Over the next month or so, there will be various battles royal over which slice of Italian pluralism will be cut away. Will Giorgio Napolitano give up the presidential prerogative to dissolve Parliament in the face of Berlusconi’s barrage calling for elections? Will Fini and his supporters maintain some independence in Parliament or will they be forced to eat humble pie? Will Berlusconi be able to start the reforms that Ginsborg listed in 2004, above passing a constitutional amendement giving himself immunity?
Power in Italy has already shifted massively to the executive and has left the legislature, the judiciary, civil society and the media much weaker than in 1994. We are in a crucial phase in which Berlusconi could succeed slice by slice in his design of a “populist democracy” or in which those inspired by Borrelli’s resistance might instead slow the process down.

This is a summary of a paper which I will give at the Conference Group on Italian Politics (Congrips) session at the American Political Science Association’s annual conference this year in Washington DC 2-5 September.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Bards and storytellers – summer entertainment
It would be nice at Ferragosto when all of Italy stops not to talk about the Prime Minister for once, but even around 15 August, it is difficult to avoid him. Going to the theatre is normally an entertainment and nothing more, but this year there is a storyteller who makes opposition to Berlusconi into an evening out.
Italy’s summer shows are justly famous and their settings are spectacular. You can see grand opera in the Verona arena, baroque opera in a Tuscan garden or Greek comedies in Syracuse. Goran Bregovic performs in summer arenas as does Bob Dylan and even the Jethro Tull. There is experimental dance and music on the Janiculum in Rome and 1950s jazz under castle walls in the Marches. Last year, Roberto Benigni kept thousands entranced in a Florence square simply reciting a 700 year old poem. But the poem was the Divine Comedy and Benigni is the quintessence of Tuscan wit and culture.
The variety is almost infinite but the most unlikely and unusual has to be a lone journalist sitting on a stage without props just telling a story. This is Marco Travaglio, the man who more than anyone else personifies opposition to Berlusconi.
On a summer evening, more than 2,000 people paid €25 to sit in the Roman theatre of Ostia to listen to Travaglio explaining Silvio Berlusconi’s rise to power. It was a throwback to simpler times when people gathered in a square or a field and listened to well-known stories or fables. The audience knew the characters and like an English Christmas panto, cheered the heros and booed the villains. Since everyone knows the main points of the narrative, there was little surprise but since no one knows the detail that Travaglio can muster, there were always gasps of disbelief as we learnt or were reminded of the sheer extragavance of the tale unfolding.
For rank improbability, the Berlusconi Saga competes well with Il Trovatore except that every word of the script comes from judicial proceedings. There is also more than a passing resemblance to a Dante reading as the Comedy (especially the Inferno) is a biting comment on the politics and society of 14th C Italy. Only one other contemporary, I think, compares directly to Travaglio; Marco Paolini, an actor-narrator who began some years ago with an acerbic rendering of his native Veneto, Profondo Nord, and then went on to narrate some of Italy’s worst mysteries and disasters, the Vajont dam overflow on 1962 with its negligence, death and cover-up; the downing of the Itavia DC9 near Ustica in 1979 with its death and international obfuscation. These are grand dramas accurately and movingly rendered. But Paolini uses props and takes on parts. Travaglio’s quality is to be able to concentrate Italy’s present disaster into powerful drama just with words.
He is one of the country’s best investigative journalists, a quiet and polite Piedmontese who never raises his voice and, a rarity in public life today, rarely uses expletives. His devastating lines are delivered with a smile rather than a snarl and the terrible truths come with wit and humour. He has produced more than a dozen books on Italy’s political scandal and despite being accused of being a Jacobin leftie, began his career with the great conservative Italian journalist, Indro Montanelli who Travaglio admires and often quotes. Not so long ago, some of the left accused him of being on the right. Apart from the occasional theatre, Travaglio writes an editorial for Il Fatto Quotidiano six days a week and a half hour webcast on Mondays called Passaparola (“pass it on!”) and last year at least, was part of the regular cast of Annozero, one of the RAI political talk shows that Berlusconi would like to close.
Although Berlusconi was obviously the centre of the show, he was certainly not the only subject. Marcello Dell’Utri one of the founders of Forza Italia who was recently given a seven year gaol sentence for mafia association figured prominently but the centre-left was not left out of the line of fire. Massimo D’Alema was given a lambasting, much to the crowd’s delight as was Bersani and other centre-left figures, only Di Pietro was not included.
It was a great evening – just walking around Ostia is a special pleasure even without a show. Leaving the theatre along the umbrella pine avenue, I have no doubt that we all felt particularly virtuous at having done our righteous bit in supporting the opposition to Berlusconi. Until… until… I realised that the whole business had been a damning symbol of Berlusconi’s ultimate victory. He is the ultimate impresario and he had succeeded in reducing the opposition to a side show performing for the converted far from the places where real decisions are made and opinions formed: the media, the demonstrations, even the emasculated parliament. Travaglio’s verve had not changed a single person’s opinion.
On the real stage, the allegations of sleaze against Fini and his brother in law continue to dominate not only the Berlusconi media while allegations of conflicts of interest and money laundering by magistrates and the Bank of Italy against Denis Verdini take third or fourth place. Verdini is one of the PdL’s three coordinators. And then everyone is limbering up to fight over early elections. Berlusconi and Bossi are playing good cop/bad cop with Berlusconi’s people arguing that the de facto constitution says that “the sovereign people” should decide if the present government no longer has a majority. Bossi and his people threaten demonstrations and secession if they don’t have elections. President Napolitano is fighting to maintain the president’s power to dissolve parliament. Even before the end of August, the battle lines are well drawn.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To vote or not to vote
In the mid-90s I used to teach a course on Italian politics every two years in the spring and from ’92 to ’96 the powers that were very kindly gave me a general election to illustrate my course with. After a decade of stability, we seem to be returning to the more usual confusion and continuous jockeying for small slices of power.
There is a pretty good chance that Italians will go to the polls again next spring and there is a small chance that it might even be as soon as November (the republic has never had an autumn election so it’s unlikely, but Umberto Bossi is pressing for it and Berlusconi loves campaigning and is very good at it).
The drama, as ever in politics, is part issues and part personal. Except that in Berlusconi’s Italy, most issues are also personal so once again, despite a major economic crisis and plenty of other only slightly less pressing problems, we are still talking about one man and his conflicts of interest.
The immediate bones of contention, as most of you know already, is the split between Berlusconi and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Gianfranco Fini. Initially Fini was joined by 33 deputies who formed a new group (not “party”) called Futuro e Libertà (Fli) and was then followed by Chiara Moroni, the youngest deputy in the Chamber but highly symbolic in the present context as she is the daughter of a man who committed suicide after being accused of corruption in the first “Clean Hands” investigation in the early ‘90s. She might have been expected to defend alleged corruptors but she supports Fini in his campaign for “legality”.
The division where the 34 Finiani declared themselves was a vote of no confidence on the PdL minister, Giacomo Caliendo, accused of being part of the new secret masonic lodge, the so-called P3. Di Pietro tabled the motion which was supported by his group, Italia dei Valori (IdV) and the Democratic Party (PD) and rejected by 299 members of the government a long way short of the 316 majority. Fini’s people abstained and the motion was defeated but since last week, it is clear that the PdL no longer commands an absolute majority.
That leaves three possibilities: immediate elections (November), a transitional “technocratic” government, and finally, a limping lame duck continuation of the present government.
The first is supported by Bossi and the Northern League who reckon they would make a killing in any elections at the moment. The former centre-left mayor of Venice, Massimo Cacciari reckoned dismally that the Lega would win 50% of the vote north of the Appenines. This is probably Cacciari playing an exaggerated Cassandra, but she was right after all; the Lega will do well because it manages to present itself as an anti-system party at the same time as being in power; they have good local organisation and a clear programme. I’ll do a blog on their biggest issue “federalism” next month. Di Pietro too would be happy to move to the hustings because IdV is the only intransigent and clear opposition to Berlusconi and would certainly take a good portion of the disgruntled PD voters. Naturally Berlusconi is raring to go and has just launched a pre-election campaign to that Italians will “understand what the government has achieved”. No peace from politics even in August.
An interim government would bring back echos of Dini in 1995 but too much has changed since then for there to be a repetition with Tremonti playing Dini’s. First of all there is a different president and the choice between elections and a new government is the president’s choice, not the prime minister’s. Oscar Luigi Scalfaro is a tough and honest old fashioned Piedmontese Christian Democrat. As president he refused to allow Cesare Previti to become minister of Justice – Previti was under investigation for corruption and was later convicted. When the Lega withdrew support for Berlusconi’s government, Scalfaro insisted on offering Berlusconi’s finance minister Lamberto Dini the possibility of forming an interim government, which he did. The present president, Giorgio Napolitano is not made of the same stuff. He prefers to mediate behind the scenes rather than stand up to Berlusconi who has himself learnt much over the last 16 years. He knows that if he refused a request for early elections “Berlusconi would go nuclear” as a diplomat friend said last week. The nuclear option would mean unleashing all his media – the five television channels (three Mediaset and two RAI) and the two newspapers which are presently savaging Fini (Il Giornale and Libero but more of that next week). Only the PD is really in favour of this option as they are divided and disorganised and too pusillanimous to fight an election at the moment. But the “transitional government” is hardly an option as it would mean them getting into bed with Tremonti who they have constantly attacked for his austerity budget which would make them look very inconsistent. And that presupposes that Tremonti would be willing to play Dini’s 1995 role.
The final option would be for the present government to carry on until there is another crunch time with Fini. Government spokesmen say they will fight on the economy, the South, federalism and justice.
The last two are the most controversial. Fini has always been against allowing too much devolution or giving too much power to the Lega. Justice includes a constitutional amendment to give immunity to the prime minister, putting a best-by date on criminal trials; three, two and one year for the three different levels, but without changing procedure. In practice all but the simplest trials would be dropped. They also want to reform the magistrature’s self-governing body, the High Council of the Magistrature and reduce its powers. The PdL would also like to see the bill which limits phone taps passed without being watered down. Each one of these issues could push Fli to vote against the government but at the moment at least, they are not ready to fight an election.

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

A die is cast.
After almost 17 years as Berlusconi’s bridesmaid, Gianfranco Fini has finally decided that he has had enough. In a very stormy week, the unlikely cooperation between Fini and Berlusconi came formally to an end with Fini and his followers being expelled from the Popolo della Libertà and setting up their own group.
It looked like a catharsis, something like a make or break, Rubicon-crossing moment. But for all the high drama and the many calls I got on Thursday and Friday asking if this was going to be the end of Berlusconi, I think we are in for a long haul.
The apparent bone of contention is “legality”. The last straw was last week when Fini’s most vocal spokesman, Fabio Granata said that there had been government involvement in the mafia killing of prosecutor Paolo Borsellino in 1992. Granata is also deputy chair of the Parliamentary Anti-mafia committee which made the remark all the more telling. Berlusconi faithfuls demanded that Granata be disciplined and maybe suspended from the party even though the institutional mechanisms are not actually in place. But the fine print of party rules did not matter; Berlusconi had decided that he had had enough and the dissidents should be expelled. They too realised that the time had come to leave.
There have also been disagreements over some personalised pro-Berlusconi legislation; the intercept bill which would limit media freedom to publish court proceedings and investigaors’ possibilities of tapping phones and some proposals to reform the justice system.
Underlying the differences on specific issues is the Finiani’s contention that there is a total lack of pluralism in the PdL. Berlusconi has frequently said that there is no space for factions or subdivisions in the PdL and after the split, Fini’s thinktank “FareFuturo” carried an editorial calling Berlusconi’s move “Operation Baygon” (and insecticide) to “rid the party of an infestation of pluralism”. Fini himself accused Berlusconi of wanting to run the party as if he were CEO. Certainly Berlusconi has never appreciated discussion and debate far less, open disagreement. Even his court jester, Giuliano Ferrara, editor of one of the family papers, Il Foglio, compared Berlusconi to Kim Il Sung. Once again, for all his rhetorical anti-communism, Berlusconi acts like some communist party boss than the leader of a “liberal” western party which he purports to support. The other family papers have been unleashed on Fini calling him a traitor, a loser and corrupt because there are some unanswered questions about his brother-in-law’s house in Monte Carlo.
At first count, Fini seems to have the numbers to bring the government down. It looks as if he has 33 deputies and 10 senators. With 342 centre-right deputies until last week, it would take only 27 to go below the 316 necessary for a majority
This means that in controversial divisions, every single government deputy will have to turn up and vote in person. In Berlusconi’s last government, the practice of one deputy voting for a colleague was notorious. They were called “piano players” because they had to stretch to press the voting buttons on two or three separate desks. This is difficult now with digital voting but quite impossible with Fini in the chair.
In practice, this means that at the moment, the government does not have a reliable majority. One commentator has said that there is already a “virtual crisis” so that Berlusconi could go to President Napolitano and ask for a dissolution and elections in the autumn. Or he could wait until a controversial vote in the autumn, either on the federal issue or on justice where Fini would not support the government, and then ask for elections in spring. Berlusconi loves elections and is very good at campaigning. He also knows that Fini will need time to build up an organisation capable of making a mark in a national campaign. The centre-left is in a mess and tomorrow, Monday 2 August, the leaders of the two parties, Bersani and Di Pietro will meet to try and work out what they will do if they do have to face elections.
Or Berlusconi could try and rebuild a majority. In order to get back onto an even keel, he needs about a dozen new supporters so there is the presumption that he will have to go on a shopping spree before the next key vote sometime in September. Pierferdinando Casini and his UDC were approached last month; Casini said that of course he would not betray his electors but the promise of a ministry and the excuse of “saving the country from chaos during the economic crisis” might just persuade him. Francesco Rutelli once a Radical and then for a time leader of the Democrats of the Left has now moved so far into the centre that he is ripe for the picking. Then there is some lowhanging fruit in the PD in the religious centre. Berlusconi disappointed the AC Milan fans by not splashing out on new talent for the coming season but he will have to be more proactive with his party.
Both Casini and Rutelli have reiterated over the weekend that they will not join the government but there is that peculiar Italian institution “external support” that could be at least a stopgap solution for Berlusconi. A group or single deputies do not become part of the government but they vote for government measures “from the outside”.
The prospects are very interesting indeed. If Berlusconi does put together a new majority, there could be a government re-shuffle with the Fini ministers replaced by more faithful folk. Or, if Berlusconi asks for elections and Napolitano refuses, there could be a technical transition government; Tremonti is already straining at the leash and cannot wait to get into Palazzo Chigi. Or we could have elections. But whatever happens, we have entered a new and declining phase of “Berlusconi-ism”. But Fini has crossed a Rubicon even though he is unlikely to become emperor in the near future but he might just end up knifed by some of his erstwhile friends.