Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Finally the end of the road for Italy's Berlusconi?

This blog has predicted the fall of Italian prime minister 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.

Of course whether it was true or not, the accusation has become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Fini and loyalists in his party have bolted to form a new independent group. Seeing an opportunity, the opposition tabled a vote in the parliament this week in the form of a no-confidence vote in a junior minister in Berlusconi’s party accused of corruption. The minister is accused of bribing judges in the many corruption cases against Berlusconi. If enough Fini loyalists revolt and vote against Caliendo, it would demonstrate that Berlusconi no longer has the loyalty of a majority of the parliament and early elections would have to be called.

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.


Anonymous said...

He may survived the vote but only because Fini abstained. You watch, he doesn't have much longer...but it will Im sure be Fini who replaces him. He may be even worst :-/

Serena said...

"It seems that Berlusconi could eat a baby on live TV and still hold on to power in that country."
I totally agree with you!!I am italian and I have never been so ashamed for my country like in the last 4 years...