Wishing on Europe

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The Italian Government is threading dangerously towards evaporation or, mutatis mutandis, citizens are likely to hit the wall and lose their “wallet”.

In the last election of February 2013, three prominent Parties, PD, PDL and M5S showed similar results of 25% each, with PD scoring marginally ahead. A hard bargaining ensued with PD trying to include M5S (Grillo) in a coalition against Berlusconi (PDL). The wedding could not be celebrated because M5S refused to mingle with “old stale politicians” while PD (Bersani) would not make a joint venture with Berlusconi (PDL) because discredited.

A Party crisis followed inside the PD making the election of the new President impossible, although the two top indications, Prodi and Rodotà, both high-calibre personalities originated from leftish backgrounds. At this point Bersani (PD) resigned, President Napolitano was emotionally asked to reconfirm his own mandate for the next 7 years and Mr Letta was appointed to form a new government.

Having Mr Grillo insisted that M5S would play the opposition, Mr Letta successfully formed a government in coalition with Mr Berlusconi (PDL); official explanation: for love of the nation and on condition that the house tax (IMU) be scrapped. It stands to reason that this is a giddy venture subject to the judicial misadventures of “il cavaliere”.

A consideration is due at this point: had Mr Grillo (M5S) agreed to form a coalition with PD (Bersani or Letta) this unconvincing outcome would not have occurred and the Country would have had a smoother political sailing. It must be added that a sizeable part of the M5S electorate is furious with Mr Grillo’s refusal to join in a government with PD and they see the present outcome as the cause of presenting a world-renown discredited figure, as Mr Berlusconi is regarded. It must be recorded, however, that last week’s pools rate M5S as still boasting 25-26%, a score revealing the extent of people’s repudiation for the old establishment.

The main cause of the tangled political situation is due to the current electoral law named “porcellum” (pigsty) reserving the nomination of members of parliament to the individual parties, meaning that citizens can only vote parties and not delegates. This law, originally introduced by the former Berlusconi government, was meant to be amended (reformed) since when Berlusconi was in charge but succeeding parliaments never came to a new definition due to empty or insincere talk.

The newly-inaugurate Letta Government has given itself 4 intervention priorities: Scrap the house tax (IMU), change the electoral law, pursue structural reforms and propel growth. Mr Letta plunged immediately in the job of finding 4bn Euro to make up for this year missing IMU intake and possibly – Mr Berlusconi rumbled – a further 4bn Euro to return last year’s payment already effected by citizens. The Finance minister is working on this topic and Mr Letta flew to Brussels to introduce his position and make the point for the growth aspect. Mr Squinzi, head of Confindustria (the Industry Union) has warned that 5,300 medium-small companies have closed shutters in 2012 for lack of credit and the drain continues.

For this and other aspects the present Government is threading on eggs (a very difficult position); scrapping the 4 or 8bn Euro house tax, the 40bn Euro government debt long-promised to be credited to small companies, refunding the 4th instalment of the ESM and a state bailout of 4bn Euro in February to rescue the Monte Paschi Siena bank; all items that could easily evaporate this year objective to confine the deficit to 3%.

I cannot miss to add to the balance the judicial problems in which Mr Berlusconi is grappled; it was announced yesterday that the Italian appeal court has upheld Silvio Berlusconi’s four-year jail sentence concerning purchased films by Mediaset at inflated price to minimize tax (a third and last grade of judgement is expected); besides, another sentence for having made sex with an underage is expected for next month. In addition, today’s news of Berlusconi having bribed leftist MPs to cause former Prodi government to fall contribute to make the atmosphere unstable. Albeit the cavaliere is not formally engaged in the present government, Mr Alfano (his deputy) is acting as Government vice-President and he is widely regarded as Mr Berlusconi surrogate.

In conclusion, the Government is jostling with two priorities: first, scrap the house tax or Berlusconi (PDL) withdraws his confidence (unless Grillo-M5S steps-in), second, find a way to spur growth maintaining the GDP deficit inside the figure of 3%.

Italian citizens, however, have a pressing priority: that to have an electoral law allowing people to vote their chosen candidates, by that improving democracy and making the Country governable. Should the Government fall before a new electoral law is approved then the Italian vessel would sink.

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