04 August, 2010

Politics as usual

I don't know if there are lessons to be learned for the UK Coalition government in what is going on in Italy but it certainly seems fun.

The story so far. Gianfranco Fini was head of the very slightly, um, fascist party MSI. He gradually went more centrist and in a grand move to get out of the mire of multi-party government merged rather than coalesced with Berlusconi's Forza Italia party to form the PdL. This pushed the Left into similar manoeuvres and heralded an era of two party politics.

Fini grew a little fed up with Berlusconi, mumbling about the sexual scandals (although his own marital career is far from perfect: his first wife left her husband for him who then tried to kill himself, and he now has an illegitimate daughter with a woman twenty years younger). Anyway this sort of thing doesn't really matter in Italy. Mostly it was that Berlusconi was hogging both the limelight and the parliamentary time, trying to make laws to keep himself out of chokey. And Fini thinks that some of Berlusconi's fellow travellers are less than savoury, which is probably true.

Anyway the rows got more and more heated and culminated in the magistrate's investigation into Giacomo Caliendo who is the Justice Secretary (whoops!) for supposedly founding a political masonic lodge. As it came towards a vote of no confidence in Caliendo Fini seceded from the PdL with 33 MPs.

But Berlusconi seems to have faced him down, announcing that at the first sign of a problem he would call an election. Fini's group abstained and the vote was won by Berlusconi.

It is hard to know what Fini was up to - the easiest thing to do with Berlusconi was ease him into retirement as President and simply assume the reins of power. Berlusconi is still, despite recent setbacks, popular, and would probably win an election.

As I have said before, Berlusconi's problems would be minimal if he had actually done something for Italy. He needs to start talking up the improvements in education, policing and budgetary control and just step into the shadows a little.

Unlikely, though.

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