Thursday, December 30, 2010

The risks of mayhem

Last week as Parliament was about to pass the controversial university reform bill, Rome braced itself for trouble. On 14 December, the week before, street violence had once again erupted with pictures of cars in flames in the Corso and Piazza del Popolo; masked and helmeted youths and policemen beating each other. Thunderflashes and molotovs were much in evidence. Windows were smashed and ATMs broken. It took one back more than 30 years to 1977 when there were similar scenes in Rome. Or to London or Athens over the last month.
This time my own experiences were some loud bangs from the outside of the Chamber of Deputies while the no confidence vote was being counted. In the square there was a surreal quiet as police and carabinieri put a ring of vehicles and men around the sensitive areas. Walking home through empty streets, the only indication of trouble were a few gaping holes in the cobbles. Rome’s sanpietrini make an effective, abundant and easily available missile for any hostile crowd that needs one.
Most of the students had demonstrated peacefully but there was clearly some sympathy for the demonstrators who showed their mettle. There was talk of agents provocateurs or infiltrati, plainclothesmen who stirred up trouble and the temperature went up. The Minister of Defence, Ignazio La Russa walked out of a television talk show when some students refused to condemn violence while his colleague, the majority leader in the Senate, Maurizio Gasparri, seriously suggested “preventive arrests”. Both had been active in violent right wing groups when they were young so the irony was not lost on commentators. La Russa is not known for his calm nor Gasparri for his legal acumen but they did present a government which was upping the ante. On 21 December, a pipe bomb was found in the underground but it had no detonator. The right used it as proof of trouble to come, the left presented it as a tension raising plant.
So on 22 December there was nervous expectation with big demonstrations planned to coincide with the final passage of the university reform bill. Many shopkeepers in the centre decided not to open and the traffic was absurdly thin for the busiest shopping period in the year. There were police, carabinieri and finance guards everywhere in the centre.
And then… nothing happened.
The students demonstrated in various parts of the city and for a time blocked the ring road. They had decided very explicitly to avoid any provocation and succeeded. They even found some solidarity among the traffic jammed motorists. At the same time, President Napolitano invited a student delegation to the Quirinale to talk about their issues. He played the role of the firm but just grandfather who would still have to sign the bill into law but was listening to their grievances.
There was indeed violence in other parts of Italy and no one thinks that the implementation of the new law will be without hiccoughs. But for that moment before Christmas, violence was avoided and there was a lesson both for the authorities and for the discontented students.
At least since De Toqueville and in a scientific way since Ted Gurr’s Why men rebel in 1975, we have known that most revolts begin not when people are in total misery but when they feel worse off than they were before. Gurr called it “relative deprivation”. Italian (and British and Greek) students are not starving but they will have to pay much more for their education than their parents or forgo it completely and they have far fewer prospects of a steady job or a pension. An interviewer pointed out to the 37 year old Minister of Education, Mariastella Gelmini, that unlike her, many of her contemporaries still don’t have a job or prospects and her reform cuts budgets even further. Touchée.
Then just before Christmas, there were parcel bombs sent to the Chilean, Swiss and Greek embassies all claimed by a so-called Informal Anarchist Federation, a tautology and contradiction in terms in just three words. Yesterday, a couple of people threw thunderflashes at a section house of the Northern League in the village where its leader Umberto Bossi lives. There was an explosion outside a court in Athens today. All this has provoked a buzz about “global anarchism” or, for Italy, a “a return to the Seventies”. As part of that debate, along with a former US diplomat in Greece and a British security expert, I was asked about the Italian aspects on al Jazeera “Inside Story” 27 December 2010.
We all agreed that however unpleasant the recent bombs are for people close to them, they do not presage a worldwide anarchist plot. Their communication methods have changed but they aims and even their weapons are much closer to the world of Conrad’s Secret Agent at the end of the 19th century or the Russians of a generation before. They would like to start a world revolution but are unlikely to succeed.
In Italy, in particular, anarchism has always held far less appeal than more organised forms of revolt. The language of the left has nearly always been a Marxist one; it spoke with violence against fascism through the Communist partisans in the war and again in the ‘70s through the Red Brigades against the Italian Republic. The fascist right was born in violence through the ‘20s squadristi and again found expression in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Political violence is as Italian as pasta and returns every generation. Given the discontent today and the very real relative deprivation, the conditions are right for another round. There is political and economic instability and a very uncertain future so the future is not rosy.
But it is not anarchist violence from a few small groups that is the worry. And last week’s lesson from the students is that politics does not have to be violent.
So for the moment, I hope, the worst we can expect are the new year’s eve fireworks and bangers. And a happy new year to you all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Eatanswill-on-Tiber; Trasformismo in the 21st century

Or the Vicar of Bray, Italian style (“And to this law I will maintain/ Unto my dying day, Sir./ That whatever King may reign, /I will be the Vicar of Bray”)

The last week before the confidence votes were marked by violent polemics over the cattlemarket for wavering deputies. The opposition has made it very clear that Berlusconi played dirty in the ways he inveigled the less principled into his camp. But whatever the ethics of the matter and Di Pietro’s accusations of crimes, there is very likely nothing illegal and certainly nothing very original in the process.
Now that the government has a tiny (and relative) majority, it is almost certain that there is likely to be a lot of horsetrading at the next crucial vote. Two or three deputies can hold the government to ransom so we have certainly not seen the last of Parliament looking more like a stock exchange than a legislative body.
In English popular culture, the Vicar of Bray epitomises the figure who adjusts his principles to suit the times. In the 17th century, the real vicar maintained his prebend in the parish of Bray officiating happily as a puritan, an Anglican and a Catholic. Italian legislators are no less adept at navigating the shoals of a career in politics.
For a good part of its first 60 years and before, Italy was marked by a permeability between political groupings that was know euphemistically first as the connubio and then as trasformismo. Before unification Cavour managed to put together liberals and conservatives in the Piedmontese parliament in order to push through his reforms; this was the connubio or marriage. In 1882 the prime minister Agostino Depretis remarked “if someone wants to transform (trasformarsi) himself and become progressive, how can I send him away?” and the term was coined. But the whole period was marked by a lack of a clear divide in programmes and ideologies between the two sides.
A generation later, the Piedmontese statesman Giovanni Giolitti became a master of political management worthy of New York’s Tamanay or Dickens’ Eatanswill. Like today’s accusations of deputy-buying, Depretis and Giolitti cajoled their clients by promising them re-election as well as personal and political benefits. But on the whole, the persuasion which was exercised was much more similar to the carrots and sticks which an American president uses to negotiate a bill through congress. The lack of sharp party discipline also links the US system with pre-fascist Italy so that despite the extensive horsetrading there was rarely anything clearly illegal or overtly corrupt.
The lack of parties led to the importance of personalities; a deputy’s loyalty was to Giolitti, not to the party. And despite the overwhelming importance of parties today, paradoxically, personalities are even more important. The big difference between today and the old trasformismo is that the reward is personal rather than political.
The two members of Antonio Di Pietro’s Italy of Values (IdV), Domenico Scilipoti and Antonio Razzi who voted for Berlusconi were betraying Di Pietro because they had been recruited by him and had a loyalty to him rather than the party. Massimo Calearo is a Veneto businessman who Walter Veltroni had put in the Democratic Party list in the hope of widening the party’s appeal; he was linked more to Veltroni than the PD. Calearo left the party a year ago and last week voted in favour of Berlusconi. The bond in all cases in personal and the motive may or may not be private rather than political advantage.
The past master of today’s game is Clemente Mastella, the man who brought down Prodi’s government in January 2008 and is probably the best personification of a contemporary vicar of Bray. Just before the 14 December vote, he explained exactly why a deputy should look after his own interests and change sides. A deputy has an income of c. €15,000 per month; the legislature could last another 28 months which totals more than €400,000. Add to that the generous pension which a deputy is entitled to after five years service, there are strong incentives not to go to early elections especially for new deputies. Principles are hardly relevant.
His take on the result, by the way, was that Berlusconi will win by a short head and he was right. But the €15,000 p.m. figure that Mastella quotes is by my reckoning a bit low; the Chamber of Deputies states that a deputy receives c. €11,700 a month salary (which after tax, pension, health deductions becomes €5,500 net) plus €3,500 expenses for living in Rome, €3,700 for “relations between electors and elected”, c. €1,000 pm for travel to an from the airport, €250 pm for telephone and free air, rail and sea travel in Italy and free motorways.
In any case, it is well documented that Italian deputies are the highest paid in Europe.
So as Mastella put so elegantly, there are good reasons to support the government even if Berlusconi gives them nothing. The five years’ service before being entitled to a pension is not quite true as there are ways of getting a pension after only three years; but I’ll deal with that in another blog. Berlusconi does not only have the possibility of doling out cash bonuses to deputies. Like Giolitti a century before, but without Giolitti’s stature, he can decide who is to be elected in the next elections. Since the resignation of the Fli members of government, Berlusconi has the bounty of one cabinet minister, one deputy minister and two undersecretaries to distribute. And he is keeping those jobs empty, dangling as bait for possible incentives in the future. One deputy, a physician, is alleged to have been promised a consultant’s post in hospital; another is the daughter of the owner of Italy’s largest crammer which is also seeking university status and Berlusconi has supported private education. Future jobs and contributions to foundations and thinktanks have also been suggested a coin for these transactions but we will have to wait some months to see if the deals were respected.
One of those who gave their vote to Berlusconi, Domenico Scilipoti, even had the nerve to make fun of himself posting a clip from the great Neapolitan comic Totò’s Gli onorevoli where Totò is promised the world for three votes – very prescient.
Berlusconi claimed another eight deputies on Friday but of course it won’t be tested till the next controversial vote (Wednesday’s vote on the university reform bill will not be opposed by Fli).
There is no doubt about the sleaze which surrounded Tuesday’s vote. But while vote buying at an individual level is criminal, members of parliament have their independence guaranteed by the constitution precisely to prevent the parties taking over. Unless investigators are able to find more than circumstantial evidence that deputies were bought for precise benefits rather than persuaded by Berlusconi’s strength of argument and personality, then there will be no convictions. It is a question of ethics and standards rather than specific crimes; welcome to an Italian Eatanswill.
But before that, there is the far more immediate problem of violence in the streets which I will deal with before the Wednesday vote.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Once more unto the swamp, my friends

Italy is full of significant dates but 14 December is not going to be one of them. The no confidence vote was hyped in both Italian and foreign media as being a crucial date for Berlusconi and for Italy but even before the result it was clear that the vote would resolve very little.
If he had lost the vote, today would certainly provide more interesting copy with endless speculation about whether Berlusconi could form a new government, how the coalition might be enlarged, who might be alternative leaders and when or if Napolitano would call early elections. All this will come, but not today. Instead we have very low key speculation on the same issues. Berlusconi is indeed trying to enlarge his coalition and continues his pre-Christmas shopping spree (the next blog will be on buying and selling parliamentarians), and early elections are still high on the agenda.
It is true that the government won on Tuesday but only by three votes which means that any two deputies can hold Berlusconi to ransom; this will happen sooner rather than later.
In order to pre-empt any moves by Berlusconi towards bringing in Pierferdinando Casini’s centrist UDC, Casini and Gianfranco Fini along with Francesco Rutelli formed a new group which they have called Polo della Nazione. At the moment they have around 100 deputies and while there is no chance that they could poll more that the Berlusconi’s People of Freedom, (PdL) in the Chamber at a general election, there are very good chances that they would win enough in the Senate to stymie a possible Berlusconi majority. That is, of course, if they manage to stay together. They are three oversized egos whose highest common factor is that they dislike Berlusconi and they call themselves “centrists” or “moderates”. But Fini is fiercely secular and supports living wills, civil unions and stem cell research. Casini comes from the old Christian Democratic party and presents himself as their successor while Rutelli started in the militantly anti-clerical Radical Party, then as mayor of Rome sidled up to the Vatican and is now the paladin of compromise with the Church. The three are odd bedfellows and even if they manage not to quarrel, the electorate is too savvy to be duped into thinking that they are a solid alliance. There are too many examples of marriages more or less of convenience winning fewer votes than their component parts from the Socialists and Communists in 1948 to the Socialists and Social Democrats in 1968 to the piles of small far left and far right parties over the last decade.
To emphasise where the substance of power lies, yesterday when the Pope received the new Italian ambassador to the Holy See, he thanked the Italian government for its defence of crucifixes in state schools. The day after the vote of confidence, the president of the Italian bishops’ conference, Angelo Bagnasco said that the Italians had declared themselves in favour of “governability” and the secretary of state, Bertone, blessed the government. Once again, the Vatican and the Catholic Church heirarchy in Italy have shown their realism and are backing what they think is the winning horse. Certainly not Casini and the UDC.
But while the Church seeks stability, Berlusconi closest ally is threatening some sort of revolt. Umberto Bossi and the Northern League (LN) have been fighting for different forms of devolution or federalism since they first went into government in 1994. In practice they have achieved very little for their almost nine years in government plus more than a year supporting a technocrat government. Now Bossi is demanding action on the implementation of last year’s fiscal federalism law (and another blog on that before Christmas). If progress is blocked by the opposition, then he has said he will demand elections.
So despite Tuesday’s trumpeted victory, the government is just as fragile as it was before the vote and the chances of a spring election just as high. The procedure is that there must be 60 days between dissolving Parliament and new elections so in order to make the date that many punters have been backing, 27 March, the real crunch must happen before the end of January. The Constitutional Court is due to pronounce in mid January on the “legitimate impediment” law which gives Berlusconi immunity from trials while in office so there will be many cues for a new crisis to begin.
With elections, there is a good possibility that Berlusconi would win a relative majority in the Chamber. His media resources and his own campaigning ability are still powerful weapons. The present electoral law would make the relative into an absolute majority. He might just take the Senate though that is less likely. But if he did, then he would be able to have himself elected President of the Republic in 2013 (it is Parliament plus representatives of the regions who elect the president), and retire safely up the hill to the Quirinale for another seven years by which time he would be 83; a nightmare scenario which would have many Italian claiming refugee status in San Marino.
In the meantime, unemployment rises, businesses downsize or fail, stringent cuts have provoked violent reactions as we saw on Tuesday here in Rome. So the alternative to a PdL-LN victory would not be very pretty either. A hung parliament; or the victory of a divided opposition. Not the best way of facing serious issues.
The answer to the question I posed last week, “who’s next?” was answered instantly by a correspondent who knows the country to a tee “why Berlusconi, of course”. For the moment, and for a fair time to come, he is right and journey through the swamp will be long, arduous and very messy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Who can follow this act? Who will follow it?

We all know that Silvio Berlusconi is immortal according to his doctor or at the very least that he is good for 120 years as he told Vladimir Putin recently. But just in case he is not prime minister for the next 46 years and especially if he is not prime minister after Tuesday’s vote of no confidence, as I promised on Friday, now is a good time to look at possible successors.
If he were to step down, there are two close associates who might take over. The first is Gianni Letta, a year older than Berlusconi, former editor of the right wing Roman paper Il Tempo who started working for Berlusconi in 1987. For the last 16 years he has been Berlusconi’s shadow, undersecretary to the Council of Ministers (the cabinet) when Berlusconi was prime minister, close advisor in opposition. He avoids the limelight and is very much at home on both sides of the Tiber. Over the last few months he only came to the fore when there was bad news to break. If he did take over, it would be as an interim PM, a gentle move towards a more normal political leader. His nephew, Enrico Letta is a senior member of the opposition Democratic Party.
More likely to be in conflict with his former boss would be the economics and finance minister, Giulio Tremonti loved by the Northern League and respected by most of his own party and the European institutions. He was both a tax accountantcy specialist close to Berlusconi and an academic but over the last 16 years has built up a reputation of independence which makes him a potential successor.
For a time, there was a very small possibility that the leader of the centrist Christian Democrat movement the UDC, Pierferdinando Casini might be a candidate. He is a former ally of Berlusconi and former speaker of the Chamber who Berlusconi has been trying to win back for the last three months but today he seems set to vote against the government on Tuesday and is trying to put together a centrist coalition with Francesco Rutelli and Gianfranco Fini.
Another outsider could be interior minister Roberto Maroni, the polite, good cop face of the Northern League but he would have a hard time persuading even people on the right that his version of the LN was different from Umberto Bossi racist, separatist and uncouth version.
Finally, there is always the dynastic option. Granted Italy is a republic but there are plenty of republics from North Korea to the United States where power moves through blood or marriage. Berlusconi’s daughter, Marina, is 44 and head for the family holding company, Fininvest. Over the summer she gave interviews on politics and the family papers gave her full coverage. Not surprisingly she denies that she would be going into politics.
On the left, obviously the natural candidate should be Pierlugi Bersani, the Democratic Party (PD) secretary who yesterday once again staked his claim as the leader of a future centre left coalition. There was a huge anti-Berlusconi demo in Piazza S. Giovanni addressed by Bersani alone. If anything it was more about Bersani and the PD showing that they really are the opposition leaders than the usual anti-B demo.
The problem is of course that for all his very real qualities, Bersani is still perceived as Massimo D’Alema’s man and apart from his diehard supporters, for most of the centre-left, D’Alema has been the kiss of death since he actively allowed Prodi’s downfall in 1998. And then since the introduction of primaries, first for Prodi himself and the Democrats of the Left in 2005 and then for Walter Veltroni in 2007, centre-left voters have not always followed the party line.
If there are elections next spring and assuming that there are primaries beforehand, the most likely winner is 52 year old Nichi Vendola, not Bersani. Unlike Bersani, Vendola is able to conjure up a dream, an essential quality for a winning politician. He also has practical experience as president of the Apulia region where he has governed effectively since 2005. In 2009, he founded his own party Sinistra, ecologia, libertà (“freedom” is the catchword across the whole spectrum). He is gay, Catholic and on the radical left; he is also a very strong speaker with an excellent presence and probably most important, untainted with the old political class even though he has been an activist since he was 14.
Age has become an issue since the 35 year old mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi said last month that the old leadership should be scrapped and traded in. Bersani could not do any better than saying I demand respect. Renzi is certainly very pushy but since he paid a private visit to Berlusconi, it is not quite clear in which direction he is pushing.
The mayor of Turin, Sergio Chiamparino, 62, is also another potential leader but definitely an outsider. Another outsider or possible future candidate is the president of the province of Rome, Nicola Zingaretti, 45, former MEP and secretary of the party’s international section. He has managed to install free wi-fi in areas throughout the province, no mean feat, has charm and works Facebook and the new media well.
Then of course there is the new right, or as they would prefer, the new centre that has its own potential leaders. There have been preliminary moves to form a “third pole” with Fini, Casini and former Radical and PD mayor of Rome, Francesco Rutelli but the differences between them and their lack of mass support mean that there is no great probability of the alliance taking off successfully. Only if Fini is able to take over as the leader of most of the centre-right would he stand a chance. He played the role of successor to Berlusconi until April, now he has to go it alone, a very difficult task.
An outsider on the right is another mayor, Rome’s present incumbent, Gianni Alemanno. Once on the far right, very ambitious, he might have been aiming at some bid when his mandate ends in 2012 but for the moment he is facing a serious of accusations of helping too many friends and relations find jobs in the city administration.
Outside the present political spectrum are three names worth mentioning: Ferrari chief, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, the president of the Bank of Italy, Mario Draghi and Mario Monti, former European commissioner. The first has said that he is “prepared to sacrifice himself for the country” a sure preamble to putting his hat in the ring. And he has set up a thinktank Italia Futura, another precurser to a political party. He too would have a conflict of interest but after Berlusconi, his would be trifling. He is biding his time and waiting for the right moment to come along.
The other two have said very explicitly that they do not want to go into politics but with the precedent of Carlo Azeglio Ciampi who moved very successfully from the Bank of Italy to first Palazzo Chigi, then the ministry of economics and then the Quirinal, there are many who would like to see a clean and competent economist with practical experience take over. Draghi would probably prefer the ECB to Palazzo Chigi and his chances are good.
Monti was a much respected commissioner appointed by Berlusconi and then renewed by D’Alema, and is a confirmed European. He has returned to academe but for both him and Draghi, the siren song of “saving one’s country” would be hard to resist if the situation worsens dramatically over the next few months.
As for the next two days, all the talk is of Berlusconi’s shopping spree and he might just make it to a majority. But if he does, it will be a Pyrrhic victory. I will try and deal with that aspect of the crisis tomorrow.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Italian countdown

Most of the foreign media seem to think that Italy is coming to the end of an era and that on Tuesday Berlusconi’s long moment at centre stage will be over. The Italian media are concerned about the detail – will he, won’t he get a majority? Who has changed sides? Why? And for how much?
For those who find Italian politics too arcane or too tedious to follow in its minutiæ, you should know that Tuesday 14 December is crunch time for Silvio Berlusconi. There will be two motions put to the Italian Parliament; a motion of confidence in the Senate tabled by the government parties – Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) and Umberto Bossi’s Northern League (LN). It will be voted on in the morning and will pass as the coalition has a solid majority.
In the Chamber of Deputies there is a vote of no confidence in the government put by the various opposition parties from Antonio Di Pietro’s Italy of Values (IdV) to Gianfranco Fini’s Future and Liberty (Fli). On paper, if everyone votes and votes according to their positions a month ago, the government should lose. But these last few days have seen feverish negotiations across the spectrum. Some are about individuals not following their party whip; rumours fly – so-and-so was offered a consultancy job €100,000 a year over the next four years; someone else was offered a free mortgage and so on or a future position in government. Some negotiations have been made public. The veteran leader of the Radical Party, Marco Pannella is once again threatening to move his six deputies from the Democratic Party to support Berlusconi as he did in the ‘90s. The price is apparently special legislation on prison reform and on the administration of justice. Fini’s principal lieutenant, Italo Bocchino has admitted that he too had a meeting with Berlusconi in order to try and come to an agreement before the vote. But it came to nothing.
Some of the negotiations are of substance, both the sleazy ones (the PD leader has called for the prosecution of paid turncoats) and the political ones like Pannella’s but most of the activity is posturing. Everyone wants to maintain the moral high ground in this case defined as “responsibility”… towards the country which is in the throes of a worsening economic crisis. No one wants to be labelled as having brought about early elections so they want to present themselves as making every possible effort to avoid the divisiveness that an election will inevitably accentuate.
The other posture in the negotiations is to paint the other side as “traitors” and one’s own as being true to “our” principles. There has been much rhetoric on this score. The centre-right tabloid Libero ran its front page earlier this week with mug shots of the Fli deputies and others who had left the PdL under the banner headline “Traitors”. Di Pietro proclaimed yesterday that if any of his deputies voted to support Berlusconi they would be “Judas who sold himself for 30 pieces of silver”.
All those involved in the negotiations have promised cliffhangers right up to the moment of the division.
After they have all pressed their buttons and the screen in the Chamber lights up, the following scenarios are possible.
Berlusconi might scrape by with a majority. This is unlikely but just possible. He might just get an absolute majority – more likely is a win due to abstentions. If it does happen by whatever means, then everyone will go home for Christmas and there will be another crisis sometime in the new year, probably fairly soon.
If he loses, then precedent and constitution mean that he would offer his resignation to President Napolitano. Napolitano will then consult with party leaders and the speakers of both houses to see who might be able to put together a new government, i.e what sort of coalition could command a majority in both houses. There is a slim possibility that Berlusconi might be given a mandate to form a new government based on a broader coalition but this was more or less what Bocchino and the Fli offered him and which he turned down.
The second possibility is that someone else is given a mandate – perhaps Berlusconi’s éminence grise, Gianni Letta, perhaps the economics minister, Giulio Tremonti to see if he has any better chances of finding a majority. There was even talk of Berlusconi stepping to one side and becoming foreign minister. Much of the opposition is clamoring for a “technical” government or a government of national unity. This would change the electoral law and try and preserve confidence in the economy until new elections could be held. But at the moment this seems unlikely because Berlusconi and the PdL are strongly against a solution which would leave him out in the cold and in their words “betray the electorate who gave him a majority in 2008”. For him, it smacks of 1994 all over again when the LN brought the government down and put in one led by the Bank of Italy director Lamberto Dini. I will go over today’s potential leaders in another blog this weekend.
In the distant past, the negotiations for a new leader and new majority often went on for weeks, sometimes months. Today that is not going to happen. If no one can form a government in a few days, the most likely scenario is that early elections will be called. The bookmakers’ favorite date is 27 March. Unless something dramatic happens over the next few days, I would put my money on that outcome as well. The results of the elections are much more uncertain, but at the moment Berlusconi would most likely win in the Chamber and given his media resource and campaigning ability, he might even make it in the Senate. But March is a long way off.
Tomorrow there will be a massive anti-Berlusconi demonstration here in Rome in Piazza San Giovanni. In order to claim success, the PD will have to make it bigger than Berlusconi San Giovanni demo just before the regional elections this year. We’ll see tomorrow; today at least the weather is a sunny 12 degrees.
There is momentum for street protests as Italian students have taken to the streets and monuments complaining about cuts in education. There was a big demo at La Scala’s opening, again protesting against cuts in the arts budget. And there is everyone else who is tired of Berlusconi and uncertainty.
Last week the budget passed, almost without a murmur and the Constitutional Court should have begun deliberations on 14th on whether the present “legitimate impediment” law which give the prime minister immunity from prosecution is actually constitutional. But they have put it off until next month. So for the moment Parliament is centre stage.
This latest act in the Berlusconi saga is heading towards a finale, but not yet the finale.

Interview with Sylvia Poggioli on NPR:

Link to the interview with Gerry Hadden in mp3 format