June 9, 2009

How to lose elections while winning them (and how to win them while losing them)

This time the lefty Guardian is right about Italy: in any other country the fact that the prime minister’s Freedom People movement took just over 35 per cent of the vote—only a couple of points below the party’s showing at the last general election and nine points ahead of the main opposition group, the Democratic Party (while in other countries the governments lost their consensus)—might be considered as a pretty satisfactory result. “But Italy is not just any other country. And what counts here today are the expectations that had been aroused.”

Actually, it seems that prime minister Silvio Berlusconi had hoped that his party would attract up to 45 per cent of the vote, to say nothing about some of his most trusted aides, who are thought to have been expecting the complete rout of the enemy and their consequent withdrawal from the world…, even though nobody could bear direct and explicit witness to such immoderate expectations. Evidently both the prime minister and his closest aides have been very effective in disguising their true intentions, as much as the Italian newspapers have been wondrously effective in unmasking them.

As a result of the above mentioned expectations, Dario Franceschini, the head of the Democratic Party, instead of being dejected by the severe defeat suffered by his party (7 per cent less than one year ago, while Antonio Di Pietro’s Italy of Values, the other opposition party, nearly doubled its vote to 7.9 per cent), is exulting at the incontrovertible fact that “these elections have debunked the myth of Berlusconi’s invincibility.” “An unstoppable advance—he said—had been announced, with the PDL [Popolo delle libertà, People of Freedom] between 40 and 45pct. This has not been the case, the PDL has remained 10 points below expectations. […] And therefore thanks to the Italian votes the risk for which I had warned, that the country would wake up under an absolute boss, has been warded off!”

However, sadly for Franceschini, for us normal people & men of little faith, results of the European parliamentary elections showed Italians remaining broadly supportive of the ruling coalition, despite controversy over the prime minister’s colourful and high-spending life-style, and allegations of corruption made by some—high politicized, according to Berlusconi and several millions of Italian citizens—Milan judges.

As it was not enough results of local elections have changed the political map in favor of the ruling coalition in many city and provincial councils, which had always been dominated by the left.

Nevertheless it must be said that the main winner is the anti-immigration Northern League, the main ally of Berlusconi, which achieved its best result ever, garnering 10 per cent of votes compared with 8.3 per cent in last year’s general election. But, unlike Di Pietro’s Italy of Values towards the Democratic Party, the Northern League has showed itself to be a loyal ally to Berlusconi’s People of Freedom movement. That is why Berlusconi can now rightfully thank

the millions of men and women who voted on Saturday and Sunday and confirmed their faith in the People of Freedom party and in me. I know that it was not easy to do this after an election campaign which was determined to strike me with a lot of slander. For this I thank you from my heart, because, in a democratic way, aside from my own personal comfort, you have ratified our victory both in the European elections and the local ones.
With your vote you have confirmed that the People of Freedom party is the main party in Italy in all five European territories, with a majority which is more than double that of one year ago over the biggest opposition party.
This is a result which makes us proud, because it confirms one more time that our government understood how to tackle the economic crisis better than others in Europe. In other countries the governments lost their consensus, while we have confirmed and consolidated our consensus and the stability of the government is strengthened as a result. Our government is committed to leaving nobody alone in this crisis. We will carry on doing this, and we will move ahead at an even quicker pace to carry out the reforms needed to modernize Italy.