Silvio Berlusconi so many times it’s not even funny anymore. But hold on, this time you guys, I really mean it. Actually I have no idea, I’m done trying to make any kind of educated guesses about Italian politics any more – you can’t use reason to predict what will happen in an unreasonable place. It seems that Berlusconi could eat a baby on live TV and still hold on to power in that country.
On Wednesday the flamboyant Italian leader will face a crucial vote in the Italian parliament that could finally dislodge him from power. Last week, Berlusconi had a very public falling out with Gianfranco Fini, co-founder of his own political party the conservative People of Freedom. The two men formed the party two years ago when Fini merged his Alleanza Nazionale party with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. Fini is a former Fascist who moved to the political centre in order to be groomed by Berlusconi as his most likely successor. But in recent months tension has been brewing between the two.
By last week Berlusconi had apparently had enough. In explosive remarks to reporters in Rome, he called Fini a “traitor” who was trying to sabotage the party by stirring up dissent against Berlusconi. Fini has publicly voiced some tepid criticism of Berlusconi in the past months over the numerous sex and corruption scandals surrounding him. He has also not fully supported Berlusconi’s new rules limiting press freedom.
The political uncertainty couldn’t come at a worse time for the Italian economy. The parliament just passed an austerity package of €25 billion in budget cuts, which follows in line with the austerity packages being prepared by all the main governments of Europe. In fact the no-confidence vote is expected to be held just a few hours before Berlusconi is scheduled to meet with UK prime minister David Cameron, who is leading the charge for the Europe-wide budget cuts.
Though Berlusconi is incredibly unpopular with the other leaders of Europe, it is likely that they will draw a sharp intake of breath if they see him lose the no-confidence vote on Wednesday. The resulting political vacuum would spell big uncertainty for the Italian budget cuts. The UK, France, Germany and Spain will be very worried if it looks like their other ‘big member state’ partner will not be able to fulfil its end of the bargain.