Today’s papers report that an 80 year-old former Christian Democrat is to be chosen as Italy’s new president.
It is like the declining days of the Soviet empire, starring gerontocrats whose names no one could even bother to remember any longer.
Berlusconi, it is said, wants Franco Marini because, in part, he thinks he will shield him from prosecution.
Bersani, we can only presume, wants Franco Marini because he is even less capable of looking beyond the old Italian politics than Berlusconi is.
What this really shows is that Grillo was correct with his Dead Man Talking rejection of any alliance with Bersani. On the other hand, Grillo’s own suggestion for president is another 80 year-old, Stefano Rodota, and like Marini, another lawyer. (Note that every president of the Philippines from Manuel Quezon to Cory Aquino — 10 in a row — was a lawyer. The Philippines is the east Asian country that has gone backwards fastest in the past 50 years. Can the Italians beat that record? I wouldn’t bet against them.)
The upshot of all this must be that Italy returns to the polls in July. Bersani will go. The left will come up with a new leader, most likely Matteo Renzi, and then we will see if he has any policies.
The Unspeakable Truth, however, is that only Thatcherite shock that breaks up an ocean of vested interests can work for Italy at this point. But who dare say this, let alone do what is necessary? My guess is no one, which pushes me to the conclusion that the likelihood of Italy leaving the Euro is now 50:50. Italy can leave, devalue, and squeeze a few more years out of its existing economic model. Growing up is a choice, not a compulsion.
Corriere della Sera (in Italian) reports that Marini did not get a quorum of votes in the first round, but there will be another vote today. Word is that Bersani’s party is splintering as the votes go forward.
FT (sub needed) on Marini.
AFP backgrounder on Marini. Heartwarming tales of childhood poverty, though apparently he ‘kills with a silencer’.
Wikepedia’s entry on Marini.
STOP PRESS: Later on the 18th
It looks like Bersani’s PD is imploding as Marini fails again in the second vote. Corriere della Sera reports the latest here in Italian. PD will ask that further votes on the presidency are postponed and meet internally on Friday. At this point, Bersani isn’t just dead, he’s entered full rigor mortis. Will he have the cojones to refuse to resign this week? I reckon that in the ugliest traditions of Italian politics that will be the case. Never, ever, ever put your country before yourself… (Isn’t that a quote from Silvio?)
Guy Dinmore in Rome has filed an excellent, long article about the state of Italy for the FT (sub needed).
REPRINT PRESS FROM MAY 2006:
A brilliant Italian solution. Unable to agree on a new president, the politicians re-elect the previous one — spritely 87 year-old Giorgio Napolitano. The first rule of Italian politics is observed: if in any doubt whatsoever, do nothing. Having failed to broker a deal to form a government in his first presidency, Napolitano now has seven more years to create one. Moreover, if he gets a third term in 2020, he’ll be 101 when he retires. Really super.