A Yale-trained and widely respected economist, professor at Milan’s Bocconi University and former European Commissioner, Monti—like the new head of the ECB Mario Draghi!—has also worked as an international advisor to Goldman Sachs. “He has an international profile that no one can deny,” said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who is one of his ardent fans. But his most prominent supporter is Giorgio Napolitano, Italy’s head of state, who appointed Mario Monti a senator for life on Wednesday, in a move widely interpreted by the Italian media as a sign he would ask him to try to form a government as soon as Berlusconi goes. Berlusconi, in turn, under pressure from markets and leading members of the People of Liberty party, who had warned him that they would not follow him in pushing for early elections, changed his position on Thursday on the possibility of supporting an emergency government led by Monti—the choice of investors, and Italy’s biggest opposition party, the Democratic party—and decided not to block him.
|Mario Monti and Italy's head of state Giorgio Napolitano|
With that being said, we should discuss (at least) three important points. First, whether or not this whole thing is politically acceptable by the voters, who will be totally ignored by the political establishment. The answer is obviously no, but it’s far too easy to argue that, given the state of the economy and the failure of Berlusconi and his coalition, there is no viable alternative. Second, whether or not an interim government lead by this cool, calm and collected man, who couldn’t be more different from his predecessor, “will have the latitude to introduce sweeping reforms in a country that for decades has resisted change,” as the WSJ puts it. Of course, as the WSJ again puts it, much will depend on whether President Napolitano manages to convince a broad swath of Parliament to back the new government. But that, to be honest, doesn’t seem to be an impossible task. Third, whether or not (a government backed by) the Left will be up to the task. That’s the real issue that should worry everyone. And if you ask me what I think about this, I could sum it up in a sentence: I don’t really know, but I’m willing to hope for the best. And may God bless and keep us all. Amen.