Sunday, 31 October 2010

Silvio Berlusconi and the Helmet of Mambrino


[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] -  The future of Silvio Berlusconi is hanging by a thread. While the attention of Italian citizens is diverted by his sexual behaviour (1) and real estate affairs (2), legal problems have become gangrenous (3).

This week Giorgio Napolitano expressed firm disapproval towards a proposed constitutional law which would make the Italian President himself and the Prime Minister repeatedly immune from any legal prosecution. According to him, indeed, the shield law would force the Constitution by subjecting the President of the Republic to the will of the Parliament (4).

Giorgio Napolitano is also said to be worried that a shield extended to the figure of the President of the Republic might make Silvio Berlusconi immune from prosecution until 2020 (5), the shield possibly being part of a larger strategy aimed at leading Silvio Berlusconi to become President of the Republic in 2013 (6).

If repeatable, indeed, the shield might permit Silvio Berlusconi to avoid any trial up to the age of 84, consequently turning immunity into impunity (7). Such a legislating fury is at least suspicious, a different law yet allowing the Prime Minister not to resort to the court if engeged in any official appointment (8).

Moreover, the shield law would immediately put the Italian Prime Minister at the same stage as the President of the Italian Republic (9). In this case, any public conflict would easily turn in favour of the former, which is chosen - though indirectly - through general elections (10).

The picture might not be more vivid: as Giuseppe D'Avanzo wrote, at the end of his political career the Italian Prime Minister is interpreting a tragedy marked by the abuse of power (11).

With the shield law, Silvio Berlusconi is actually putting a colander on his head in order to make his regime eternal.

_________

* "- I say this because, unless I am mistaken, coming toward us is a man who wears on his head the helmet of Mambrino, concerning which, as you well know, I have made a vow.
    - Your grace, be careful what you say, and more careful what you do, - said Sancho, - for you wouldn't want this to be more fulling hammers that end up hammering and battering our senses."
(Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote, I, XXI, translation by Edith Grossman).

(1) Piero Colaprico «Ruby. "Silvio showed me the Audi and said: 'It's yours'"», repubblica.it, October 29th 2010.

(2) Sergio Rizzo "Gli investimenti di Berlusconi. Ad Antigua ville per 22 milioni", corriere.it, October 17th 2010.

(3) Marcello Sorgi, "La regola e l'eccezione", lastampa.it, October 27th 2010.

(4) Read Al.T., "Scudo, lo stop di Napolitano", Corriere della Sera, October 23rd 2010. Article 90 of the Italian Constitution, concerning Presidential Indemnity, explains that:
  1. "The president may not be held responsible for exercising his duties, except for high treason and attempts to overthrow the constitution.
  2. In these cases, he must be impeached by parliament in joint session by a majority of its members."
(5) Massimo Franco, "Effetti a catena", corriere.it, October 23rd 2010.

(6) Stefano Folli, "Lo scudo sbriciolato all'ombra del Quirinale", ilsole24ore.it, October 23rd 2010.

(7) Luca Ricolfi, "La differenza tra immunità e impunità", lastampa.it, October 23rd 2010.

(8) Pierluigi Battista, "Una lunga stagione da chiudere", Corriere della Sera, October 24th 2010.

(9) Massimo Giannini, "Il nuovo lodo Alfano: un Frankestein costituzionale", repubblica.it, October 23rd 2010.

(10) Eugenio Scalfari, "Il sasso istituzionale e lo tsunami politico", repubblica.it, October 24th 2010.

(11) Giuseppe D'Avanzo, "L'abuso di potere", repubblica.it, October 29th 2010.

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Sunday, 24 October 2010

The Happy Protest of Italian Metalworkers


(mcdarius, Happiness)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - On Saturday, October 16th, a huge mass of workers and citizens gathered in Rome to defend the rights of Italian metalworkers following recent labour disputes at FIAT in Pomigliano and Melfi (1). The demonstration was a remarkable success for FIOM-CGIL (2), which suggested a general strike to be called soon (3).

The debate had split Italian trade unions after CISL and UIL (4) accepted FIAT bid to give up the current metalworkers contract in exchange for new investments in Italy, while FIOM-CGIL resolutely refused it (5).

The dispute had become wicked as egg launchers attacked CISL and UIL offices in several Italian cities (6), while CISL Secretary General Raffaele Bonanni was launched a smoke bomb at a public speech in Turin (7). FIOM and CGIL firmly condemned any violent attack (8).

Overtly supporting CISL and UIL against FIOM-CGIL (9), the Italian Government had repeatedly claimed that FIOM protest in Rome might be violent, raising accusations of dangerously fanning the flames (10).

As outlined by Gad Lerner, the quiet atmosphere of Rome demonstration made FIOM-CGIL able to claim the respect of basic rights, such as striking and absenting of work due to illness, which actually are under attack (11).

If on one hand, as the former leader of CGIL Sergio Cofferati remarked, the trade unions are always supposed to defend the rights of workers (12), on the other hand - as Paolo Flores d'Arcais explained - FIOM-CGIL was indeed extremely effective in putting together the rights of workers with Italy's need for growth (13).

The success of FIOM-CGIL represents also a defeat for the Italian Democratic Party (14), which obstinately and ineffectively claims to be equidistant from different trade unions (15). The Italy of Values and Left Ecology and Freedom, instead, happily supported the demonstration (16).

__________

(1) Guy Dinmore, "Protests hit Rome's efforts to cut deficit", ft.com, October 18th 2010.

(2) Founded in 1901 and led by Maurizio Landini, the Federation of Metallurgical Employees and Workers (FIOM) is the metallurgic section of CGIL (Italian General Labour Confederation). CGIL, founded in 1906 and led by Guglielmo Epifani, is the main Italian trade union with an estimated 6 mln members (fiom.cgil.it and cgil.it).

(3) Alessandro Capponi, "Epifani: dal governo risposte o sarà sciopero", corriere.it, Octrober 17th 2010.

(4) Founded in 1948 and led by Raffaele Bonanni, the Italian Confederation of Labour Trade Unions (CISL) is the second Italian trade union with an estimated 4.5 mln members (cisl.it). Founded in 1950 and led by Luigi Angeletti, the Italian Union of Labour is the third Italian trade union with an estimated 1,75 million members (uil.it).

(5) Paolo Griseri, "Tute blu contro tute blu. Così ci si divide in fabbrica", repubblica.it, October 4th 2010.

(6) Roberto Mania, "Nuovo attacco a una sede Cisl. Scritte insultanti e lanci di uova. La Polizia allerta i prefetti", repubblica.it, October 13th 2010. Read also Nicoletta Picchio, "Assalto a Confindustria Padova", ilsole24ore.com, October 14th 2010.

(7) "Festa Pd, blitz dei centri sociali: Bonanni colpito da un fumogeno", lastampa.it, September 8th 2010.

(8) Read Luigina Venturelli, "Nuovi attacchi a Cisl e Uil. Epifani: fatti vergognosi", unita.it, October 13th 2010. Read also Luisa Grion, "Landini: un gesto da condannare ma vero colpo di mano è di altri", repubblica.it, October 1st 2010.

(9) Roberto Mania, "Sacconi: 'A Roma una minoranza radicale inadatta a governare'", la Repubblica, October 17th 2010. Read also Cesare Peruzzi, "La ricetta Sacconi: salario legato alla produttività", ilsole24ore.com, October 17th 2010.

(10) Alberto D'Argenio, "'Corteo Fiom a rischio incidenti'. Bufera sull'allarme di Maroni", la Repubblica, October 15th 2010.

(11) Gad Lerner, "Il valore del lavoro e la politica distante", repubblica.it, October 17th 2010.

(12) Giorgio Meletti, "Cofferati: sto con la FIOM. Il PD? Spero che capisca", ilfattoquotidiano.it, October 14th 2010.

(13) Paolo Flores d'Arcais, "Strategia della tensione", ilfattoquotidiano.it, October 15th 2010.

(14) Dario Di Vico, "Il sindacato metalmeccanico si fa partito e la sua piazza 'cattura' il segretario Cgil", corriere.it, October 17th 2010.

(15) Claudio Tito, "Bersani: Cisl e Uil non hanno tradito. 'Il Pd non sceglie tra i sindacati'", repubblica.it, October 18th 2010.

(16) Luca Telese, "Il Pd scompare, Vendola e Di Pietro ne approfittano", ilfattoquotidiano.it, October 17th 2010.


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Sunday, 17 October 2010

Italian Democrats Desperately Seeking Identity



(♥KatB Photography♥, Day 303: My Identity)

[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - In case of elections, one Italian out of three would not be able to decide whether to vote or not (1). The Democratic Party is credited with a voting intention of 26%, representing just 13% of potential voters (2).

Its supporters look divided when asked what the party should do. Keeping the Italy of Values as the only ally (30%)? Standing alone (27%)? Forming an alliance with different parties: Left Ecology and Freedom (28%)? Union of the Centre (23%)? Alliance for Italy (14%)? Future and Freedom (10%)? (3).

Confusion might not be greater, if some hope in Luca Cordero di Montezemolo - former President of Confindustria - as the best democratic candidate against Silvio Berlusconi (4). The chairman of Ferrari, who was also suggested as the candidate of Future and Freedom (5), denied so far any intention to enter politics (6).

According to the sociologist Ilvo Diamanti, the Democratic Party lacks three key elements: a strong and shared leadership; a few clear political issues; a flexible and open organization (7). The Italian electoral law, instead, encourages the formation of conglomerated political parties lacking any real identity (8).

In 1994 the Italian Left lost the chance to win by giving up making an alliance with the Catholic Center, thus allowing Silvio Berlusconi to come to power. The following attempt to impose in Italy a two-party system was a pure illusion.

The Democratic Party should now reaffirm its lost leftist identity, sharing a credible electoral programme with Left Ecology and Freedom and the Italy of Values. This goal achieved, the party should form a civic platform with the Union of the Center and Future and Freedom to defend the Italian Constitution and beat Silvio Berlusconi once and for all.

But haste is never a good counselor.

_________

(1) Renato Mannheimer, "Urne anticipate, un elettore su tre verso l'astensione", corriere.it, October 3rd 2010.

(2) Eugenio Scalfari, "La Sinistra divisa tra realisti e sognatori", repubblica.it, September 19th 2010.

(3) Renato Mannheimer, "Elettori pd, il 60 per cento vuole andare alle urne", corriere.it, September 19th 2010.

(4) Monica Guerzoni, "Il caso Montezemolo agita il Pd", corriere.it, October 9th 2010.

(5) Alessandro Sallusti, "Fini vuole Montezemolo", ilgiornale.it, October 13th 2010.

(6) Roberto Mania, "'Io candidato di tutti, è ridicolo. La politica è in stato confusionale", repubblica.it, October 13th 2010.

(7) Diamanti, Ilvo, "Alla sinistra della delusione", repubblica.it, October 4th 2010.

(8) Carlo Galli, "Le tre crisi della democrazia", repubblica.it, October 2nd 2010.


Related articles in English

  • Guy Dinmore, "Berlusconi vulnerable to rivals", ft.com, October 12th 2010
  • Stacy Meichtry, "Fini presses Berlusconi government", online.wsj.com, October 12th 2010


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Saturday, 9 October 2010

The Disturbing Silence of Italian Public Debt




[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - In August the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso underlined that Italy has a lot of work to do in order to cut debt and deficit an thus restore wealth, even if the banking system, private debt and unemployment are under control (1). By December 2010, about € 70 bn of long term Italian public bonds had indeed to be rolled over (2).

Since the outburst of the world financial crisis, the Italian Ministry of Economy actually worked well, reducing the roll over impact (3) by abstaining from increasing the weight of short term emissions (4).

Nevertheless, the real problem is growth. According to the European Commission, Italian GDP will grow by 1.1% in 2010 (5), but estimates for 2011 are very uncertain: while Government says 1.5%, Deutsche Bank says 0.8% (6).

Studying the effect of a moderate and protracted growth shock of 1% until 2015, the International Monetary Fund concluded that Greece and Italy, having higher pre-crisis debts and larger automatic stabilizers (7), are more exposed than other countries to fiscal risks: even if the outlook is stable, Italian debt-to-GDP ratio is projected at 118.4% in 2010 (8).

The negative effect of public debt is lessened by high private savings: between 1995 and 2009 Italian families increased their assets, which amount to € 140,000 per capita, by 34% (9).

As remarked by Tito Boeri, however, the reformed European Growth and Stability Pact might force Italy to cut its debt by € 50 bn every year until 2020, in order to bring the debt-to-GDP ratio back to 60% in the longer term. Overwhelmingly, though, in his recent speech to the Parliament Silvio Berlusconi did not even mention the problem (10).

Italian citizens are thus in for higher taxes and heavy expenditure cuts, but nobody told them.

__________

(1) Vittoria Puledda, "Barroso: Italia, attenta a debito e deficit", repubblica.it, August 28th 2010.

(2) Isabella Bufacchi, "In scadenza entro l'anno altri 134 miliardi", ilsole24ore.com, August 31st 2010.

(3) Short term emission - such as Italian BOTs - have to be rolled over more frequently, every 3 to 12 months. On the contrary, long term emissions - such as Italian BTPs - have to be rolled over less frequently, every 3 to 30 years. While the financial crisis is straining public finance, countries harshly fight each other to sell their bonds to the financial markets at the lower price: the more risky is a country public debt, the higher is the interest rate it has to grant to investors. The shorter is the debt, the more stressing is the task to find new investors.

(4) Read Isabella Bufacchi: "Aste per 200 miliardi entro fine anno", ilsole24ore.com, September 10th 2010 and  "Maratona di emissioni per il Tesoro", Il Sole 24 Ore, September 26th 2010, p. 25.

(5) Adriana Cerretelli, "Migliora la crescita italiana", ilsole24ore.com, September 14th 2010.

(6) Superbonus, "Verso l'apocalisse portoghese del debito", ilfattoquotidiano.it, September 26th 2010.

(7) Automatic stabilizers are tools mitigating the effects of GDP fluctuations on citizens without any direct action needed by the government: during a recession, tax revenues typically tend to decrease since people earn less, while unemployment allowances and welfare expenditures tend to rise since more people are unemployed and need help. The result is a deterioration of public finance, which up to a certain extent can actually be useful to restore the conditions for growth.

(8) Greece, with a negative outlook, has a projected 130.2% debt-to-GDP ratio in 2010. Read International Monetary Fund, "Global Financial Stability Report. Sovereigns, Funding, and Systemic Liquidity", imf.org, October 2010, pp. 6-7.

(9) During the same period, German families increased their assets by 52%, while American families increased their assets by 23%. Private assets stand at about € 121,000 per capita for Germany and at about 101,000 for the U.S. Read Marco Fortis, which shows the results of a research led by Fondazione Edison in "La formica Italia parla un po' tedesco", ilsole24ore.com, September 18th 2010.

(10) Tito Boeri, "I conti pubblici sotto il tappeto", repubblica.it, October 6th 2010.


Related articles in Italian
  • Massimo Mucchetti, "Quel mezzo punto che non ci consola", corriere.it, September 26th 2010
  • Giacomo Vaciago, "Quanto debito, figliuolo?", ilsole24ore.com, October 2nd 2010
  • Stefania Tamburello, "'Conti pubblici al sicuro per il 2010'", Corriere della Sera, October 6th 2010, p. 28
  • Anna Guanta, "L'Fmi: 'L'economia italiana migliora'", Il Messaggero, October 8th 2010, p. 23
  • Francesco Verderami, "Tremonti: non ci sono soldi. Gelo con gli altri ministri", Corriere della Sera, October 8th 2010
  • Roberto Petrini, "Tremonti: ora via alla riforma fiscale", repubblica.it, October 8th 2010 

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Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Italian Night Seems Too Long



[Edoardo Montenegro, Turin] - Last Wednesday Silvio Berlusconi won a confidence vote by 342 to 275 at the Parliament. Even if remarking their distance from the Prime Minister, 38 lawmakers belonging to Future and Freedom and to the Movement for Autonomy decided in fact to keep the Italian Government alive (1).

In his speech to the Chamber of Deputies, Silvio Berlusconi called for unity and claimed success (2), but his words looked extremely surreal in the light of both the harshness of his struggle with the Parliament Speaker and the inconsistency of Government action, mainly in facing organized crime and in improving standards of living in the poorest South of Italy (3).

Silvio Berlusconi's rethoric, as well as a rare direct TV parliamentary session, gave Pierluigi Bersani (the leader of the Democratic Party) and Antonio Di Pietro (the leader of the Italy of Values) a great opportunity to embarrass him on grounds of morality, the Prime Minister having so far envisaged a reform of justice which would grant him total immunity from any legal prosecution (4).

Most of all, as outlined by the Italian writer Roberto Saviano, in a democratic country you are not supposed to buy lawmakers in stock while at the same time swearing faithfulness to the will of voters (5).

The final outcome of the battle was thus a failure for Silvio Berlusconi (6). By voting to keep the Italian Government alive, Gianfranco Fini is indeed taking time to build his own new party (7). As the Economist explained, Silvio Berlusconi and Gianfranco Fini now "sleep in separate beds but, for reasons of convenience, under the same roof." (8).

However, by this time the night seems too long: Gianfranco Fini will sooner or later have to decide whether he really aims to become a statesman or remain a tactician.

________

(1) "Berlusconi, fiducia grazie a FLI ed MPA", repubblica.it, September 29th 2010.

(2) "Berlusconi chiede fiducia alla Camera", ilgiornale.it, September 30th 2010.

(3) Guy Dinmore, "Berlusconi survives vote, but dependent on rebels", ft.com, September 30th 2010.

(4) Giuseppe D'Avanzo, "Il ricatto sulla giustizia", repubblica.it, September 30th 2010.

(5) Roberto Saviano, "La macchina della paura", repubblica.it, September 29th 2010.

(6) Marcello Sorgi, "Ha vinto eppure ha perso", lastampa.it, September 30th 2010.

(7) Ezio Mauro, "La fiducia avvelenata", repubblica.it, September 30th 2010.

(8) "Silvio the survivor", economist.co.uk, October 2nd 2010.


Related articles in English

  • Guy Dinmore, "Berlusconi looks to win confidence vote", ft.com, September 27th 2010.
  • Stacy Meichtry, "Berlusconi survives key vote", online.wsj.com, September 30th 2010. 

Related articles in Italian

  • Ilvo Diamanti, "Un governo che non fa ma che 'dice' di fare", repubblica.it, September 27th 2010.
  • Giuseppe D'Avanzo, "La trave dell'off-shore nell'occhio del Cavaliere", repubblica.it, September 28th 2010.
  • Stefano Folli, "La legislatura adesso è in bilico", ilsole24ore.com, September 30th 2010.
  • Massimo Franco, "Un Sì avvelenato", corriere.it, September 30th 2010.
  • "Berlusconi professionista politico", ilfoglio.it, September 30th 2010.
  • Massimo Giannini, "Ma nell'agenda manca l'Italia", repubblica.it, October 1st 2010.

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