Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Corrupt Knight Returned

As expected, billionaire Silvio Berlusconi (1936--) has been re-elected Prime Minister, and his Popolo della Libertà or PdL ('People of Freedom'/'Freedom Folk') Party is likely to obtain an absolute majority in the Italian Senate. Later in the week The Knight will again face trial on corruption charges; a trial suspended for the election campaign.

Politically, Berlusconi collaborates with the most right-wing elements in the country. The “People of Freedom” is an alliance of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which is organizationally based on his business empire, and... Gianfranco Fini’s National Alliance, which emerged from the fascist MSI. While Fini has officially dissociated himself and his supporters from the fascist tradition, avowed fascists such as the granddaughter of the Duce, Alessandra Mussolini, and the convicted businessman Giuseppe Ciarrapico are also standing as candidates for the PdL.

The most important ally of the PdL is the separatist Northern League (Lega Nord), whose racist and in particular anti-Muslim campaigns are on a par with those conducted by ultra-rightist organisations such as the German National Democratic Party (NPD), the French National Front or the Belgian Vlaams Belang.

For the parliamentary left, the election has been a disaster. Sinistra Arcobaleno ('Rainbow Left'/'Rainbow Alliance') -- consisting of Rifondazione Comunista (Communist Refoundation), Partito dei Comunisti Italiani (Italian Communist Party), the Greens and Sinistra Democratica (Left Democrats) -- "scoring around 3.5 percent of the Senate vote compared with 11.5 percent in 2006". If so, the Rainbow Left would be left without any representation; it would also be the first time that Communist deputies would be absent from Italy's postwar parliament. As a consequence, party leader Fausto Bertinotti has resigned. The far right, on the other hand -- with whom Berlusconi has formed a coalition -- did very well. According to Reuters, the Lega Nord "could win 8-9 percent of the national vote, doubling the 4.5 percent it won at the last election in 2006"; the National Alliance also, apparently, did relatively well.

In the Lower House of Parliament, Berlusconi's party received 46.8% of the vote, compared to 37.6% for the principal opposition party, Walter Veltroni's Partito Democratico (The Democratic Party, PD). This translates into 340 seats for the PdL, and 239 seats for the Democrats (of a total of 630 seats). In the Senate, the proportion of votes going to the PdL and the PD was 47.3% and 38% respectively, or 168 and 130 seats (of a total of 315 seats). The other party to achieve representation in Parliament is the Unione dei Democratici Cristiani e di Centro, or UDC (Union of Christian and Centre Democrats), which gained 36 MPs and 3 Senators.

See also : Berlusconi's Victory: A Revolution for Italy's Parliament, Michael Braun, Spiegel Online, April 15, 2008:

...A new beginning -- that's also the key phrase on the radical left, which was punished in the election like no other political force in the country. Two years ago, the two communist parties and the Greens managed to get a good 10 percent of the vote between them. This time, they ran as part of the left-wing federation The Left -- the Rainbow.

But the new unity project failed to convince the electorate. Some preferred to vote for Veltroni's center-left party in a bid to stop Berlusconi. Others simply stayed at home, because they had not forgiven the radical left for taking part in Prodi's coalition. In the end, the federation not only failed to reach the 8-percent hurdle for the Senate, but -- against all predictions -- also missed the 4-percent hurdle in the Chamber of Deputies. For the first time since 1945, the communists will no longer be represented in Italy's parliament.

And also for the first time -- and in Italy this counts as a real revolution -- there are only four parliamentary groups in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, meaning that the time of having 23 to 30 parties fighting it out between themselves is past. On the left, there is Veltroni's Democratic Party, in the middle the UDC, and on the right Berlusconi's People of Freedom and the Northern League. The new constellation will bring an unusual clarity and simplicity to Italian politics.

Nonetheless, the new parliament will still have its old leading man Berlusconi, who has dominated Rome's political scene for 14 years, and who wants to continue until 2020: first for five years as prime minister -- and then maybe another seven as president.

Italy’s fragmented left
, Rudi Ghedini, Le Monde diplomatique, April 8, 2008 | Bertinotti Resigns As Rainbow Left Reaches End of Line, Gian Antonio Stella (English translation by Giles Watson), Corriere Della Sera, April 15, 2008 | Collapse of “left” parties enables Berlusconi to win Italian election, Peter Schwarz, wsws, April 16, 2008

Results : Lower House : Senate