June 3, 2011

Where Nothing Is Impossible

Yesterday, here in Italy, was the festival of the Republic, but the Italian Prime minister had few reasons to celebrate after his ruling center-right coalition was resoundingly beaten in runoff administrative elections last Monday. He lost Milan (44.9 percent to 55.1 percent), his home town, the city where he built his economic empire and where his political career started, and in Naples Luigi De Magistris—a former magistrate who was struck by politics on the way to Damascus—beat Berlusconi-backed Gianni Lettieri (65.3 percent to 34.7 percent). As it was not enough the center-left opposition’s candidates also won runoff votes in the northern cities of Mantua, Trieste, Gallarate and Novara, as well as Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. In other words, a complete disaster. And, Ok, maybe it’s over for Berlusconi, the big loser, the bunga-bunga man, and so on.

But then again, as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago after the (equally catastrophic) first electoral round, both the results in Naples and in Milan, as well as those in Bologna, Turin, and many other places, show that the center left is in no better shape than the center right. One example for all: the results of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement (almost 10% in Bologna, 10% in Ravenna, 15% in Rimini, 5% in Turin, 8% in Savona, and so on), whose goal is to demolish the credibility of the whole Italian political, economic and financial establishment, which, of course, according to Grillo (and many others), includes the Democratic Party, i.e. the biggest and most influential opposition party, and the heir of the defunct PCI (Partito Comunista Italiano). And, actually, this is how Grillo himself described in his blog what happened in Milan, Italy’s finance and business capital:

The System has won. The one that makes you come out into the street because it’s you that’s won, but in the end it’s always the system that wins. It transforms the voters into fans content that finally it’s the Left that’s won or alternatively it’s the Right that’s won. Someone said of the PDminusL that “It’s easy to win with the candidates of the others”. OK, but who are the others? Pisapia, who is De Benedetti’s lawyer and the bearer of the PDminusL’s membership card number ONE (that has for the Swiss engineer the same magical effects as Uncle Scrooge’s mythical coin), Fassino a deputy in Rome and the mayor of Turin who wants the militarisation of the Val di Susa? Vendola who builds incinerators together with Ms Marcegaglia, has earmarked 120 million euro of public money from the region of Apulia to Don Verzé’s San Raffaele foundation; Don Verzé the spiritual father of Berlusconi and he is keeping the management of water in private hands? The system has liquidated Berlusconi and it has to present new faces so as not to be swept away. If they’re old, they pass them off as new. If Pisapia at least puts a stop to the monstrous construction of EXPO 2015 together with that of City Life, closes down the incinerators, cuts the salaries of the town cabinet members by 75%, I will change my mind. Do you think he will do that?
On reading the newspapers it seems that the 5 Star MoVement has been deleted from politics, swept away by the new that is coming in. It’s the PDminusL that’s won, the same one that guaranteed for Berlusconi “a life that is never late”, that has allowed in the Fiscal Shield, that voted for the Great Pardon, that did not make it possible to group together the local elections and the referendum (one vote would have been enough, but absences included 10 PDminusL people, including Fassino, and 2 IDV, do you think it was just by chance?),that gifted three public national frequencies to Berlusconi asking in exchange just one per cent of the turnover, that did not do a law on the conflict of interests when it was in government and did not even modify Calderoli’s “legge porcata” {filthy law}.
The Confindustria is looking for new ways of maintaining its parasites. It woke up after Fukushima, when it understood that the cake of about 30 billion for nuclear power stations was vanishing, before that it was expecting the juicy bone and was keeping quiet. The Confindustria, together with the parties, will do everything possible to cause the failure of the referenda that would take away from it the management of water for ever. No one is talking about the referenda any more. Everyone’s out in the street celebrating. Everything changes so that nothing changes. They will never give up (but is it in their interests?). Neither will we.

Well, Ok, he’s a comedian, not a normal politician, he’s a mad man and whatever you want, but there is little doubt that Grillo is right when he argues that they are cheating. Sometimes the truth, in politics, can make the difference.

Girolamo Savonarola's monument, Ferrara (Italy)
After all, it’s an old trick of the post-communist left to brand all of their political opponents—even the most upright of them—as “right wing extremists” and deeply dishonest people, and, at the same time, to strenuously defend their own “business agents” and to consider all of them as “honorable, ethical and virtuous people,” no matter what they really are. What I really like about Grillo, even though I often don’t agree with him, is that he doesn’t care whether you are right or left-wing, he only tries to fight political corruption (or what he regards as such) in whatever form and wherever it comes from. He may sounds more like a modern Savonarola (with Savonarola’s fanaticism but without his Christian faith) than a political leader, the opposite of a detached analyst, but he’s not a liar and a hypocrite. And he’s certainly honest.

On the other hand, if it is true that, as Stefano Folli put it in the economic daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, the electoral results “opened up the question of the leadership of the center-right,” it is also true that, as some other commentators cautioned, local wins would not automatically translate into an electoral victory at a national level. And this for many reasons. One is that the center-left coalition will have to face the challenge presented by Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. And as the recent elections have shown, nothing is impossible here, in the Bel Paese.