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Happy Birthday, Silvio PDF Print E-mail
Sep 29, 2010 at 10:00 AM

ImageWill he or won?t he? Of course he a vote of confidence. Today is the day Italian politicians have been awaiting for over a month, holding their breath on over the outcome of a parliamentary vote which could decide the fate of the present government and, as a consequence, whether or not Italians will be called to the polls sometime soon, and that is well before the natural end of the legislature in 2013. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said his government will continue in office only if he wins more than the requisite 316 votes on a confidence vote scheduled for today, September 29th, which by the way coincides with his 74th birthday. I write about this not because I really care (since the center-left opposition is currently a real mess, in a vote he would only win again), but becuse Italian newspapers, TV and related political pundits have talked about nothing else over the last six weeks with the result that most of us simply can't stand it any more.


It is by now pretty clear that Berlusconi will have his majority, although I suppose there could be an upset. He reportedly has convinced ("bought", says the opposition) a certain number of MPs from smaller centrist parties to back him after a speech to the Chamber of Deputies will ask for renewed support for a five-point platform on judicial reform, tax reform, immigration and crime, federalism, and financial assistance and his defense of his government's accomplishments so far.

Furthermore, it is also likely that the group backing House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, whose break with Berlusconi caused all the present tension (a break caused by Berlusconi not by Fini) will also vote "yes" on the grounds that they were after all elected on the program presented by Berlusconi's party, the People's Freedom movement (PdL).

Today's vote, and one other issue that has been front-page news here, revolve around the collapse of his alliance with the former Alleanza Nazionale party which merged with his Forza Italia in March, 2009. The other is the unceasing smear campaign that two newspapers friendly to Berlusconi have been waging against Fini since July in the hopes of discrediting him and forcing him to resign his current position as Speaker of the House. (I will come back to this in a later article, if only because it is yet another indication of the degree to which Italian politics, rarely noble, have now hit rock bottom).

Over the summer, the rift between Berlusconi and Alleanza Nazionale's former leader, Gianfranco Fini, once Berlusconi's closest political ally, led to a total break and Fini's followers left the PdL's parliamentary caucus and threatened to join forces with several smaller centrist parties. Berlusconi's first reaction was "If I no longer have a majority, then we should go to the polls". But at some point he changed his tune, probably because opinion polls show he might not do as well as he once did and that the controversial Northern League, his principal supporter following Fini's defection, could do extremely well.

In today's address, Berlusconi may also renew a call for approval of a law that protects cabinet ministers from prosecution while in office, a law originally designed to shield him from possible conviction in two separate judicial cases even though a) for reasons having to do with timing this may no longer be helpful to him and b) this was one of the original causes of Fini's original dissent from the government program. And now? For now the increasingly fractious government is likely to stumble on, blathering mostly about things ordinary people do not care about and forgetting that this country has enormous problems to resolve.



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