Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Politics Can Still Be Thrilling

Who said that politics can't be thrilling anymore in a world that is losing tracks of ideologies? Whoever said that, Italy proved that even today, politics can be indeed exciting. Between sunday and monday morning, 83,6% of the italians went to vote for the general political elections, and that already should say something. That the final result was decided by a mere 25.000 votes (the 0,06%) gives a good picture of how my country is politically split exactly in two.

Truth to be told, the Italian political landscape is demoralizing.

On the centre-right side there's the first party of Italy which is basically a one-man show by Mr. Silvio Berlusconi (Forza Italia), a more or less genuinely conservative party ("Alleanza Nazionale") that has lost most of its vision and purpose in the transition from being a post-fascist to a generally conservative party, a christian inspired party ("UDC-CDU") and a hardly definable party that was born with the goal of having an independent north Italy ("La Lega"), plus a bunch of minor parties of little or none importance.

If you think that's depressing, you should then look at the centre-left coalition, putting together christian inspired and liberal parties like "La Margherita" and the "UDEUR" together with rabidly anticlerical and atheist parties ("La Rosa nel Pugno"), proudly communist ones ("Rifondazione comunista" and "Uniti con l'Ulivo" which reunites the "Comunisti Italiani" and the radical-environmentalists of the "Verdi") which have strong ties with the violent anarchists and no-global movements and the former communist, now self-declared social-democrat, party "Democratici di Sinistra"... plus a score or minor, but pretty vocal, parties.

Those two sides, and the people they represent, basically loath each other and for the centre-left supporters (but, truth to be told, for many centre-right ones as well) this elections had became a matter of death of life. So it was somewhat interesting, as the polls closed and the first exit polls announced a major victory for the center left (so much that the president of that coalition's main party, Massimo Dalema, announced an "historical victory"), to see that coalition's leader, Romano Prodi, call for a victory speech at 18.30 pm in the small, but very symbolic square of Saint Apostles, to move afterwards in the much bigger Piazza del Popolo for the celebration.

But... then real votes started to be displayed, and the speech was postponed at 19.00, then another half hour, then a hour as the results showed the centre-right coalition had a narrow majority at the Senate (the upper house). The "victory speech" had been postponed at 23.00 when the real votes for the parliament (the lower chamber) started to show an initial difference of 450.000 votes becoming narrower and narrower until, at 2.00 am, the centre-left coalition won the race (and a 5% premium of seats given to the coalition with the higher number of votes) for a mere 0,06%, 25.000 votes (with 500.000 ballots declared void, which will probably throw us in a Florida-style count and recount syndrome.).

It was a thrilling night, with the votes and results, and therefore comments, changing any minute, the faces of the ones who had been sure of emerging in a triumph turning first concerned and than definitely grey as the announced celebrations had turned in a boomerang, as the most classic italian saying "Don't you ever sell the Bear's skin before you have killed it" was proved once again right.

Eventually, it was that at 3.00 am, in front of a very sparse number of supporters, the leaders of the centre-left, with the most loser faces some winners ever showed, announced their historical victory, having a minimal majority at the senate based on the 6 senators elected oversee (yes, we do have 6 senators and 12 members of the parliament elected by the italians who live abroad, despite the fact they do not pay taxes and possibly have no contact whatsoever with the country's reality) and the 7 senators for life nominated by the President of the Republic (which in the intention of the Founding Fathers should had been something of a symbolic thing) and a large majority at the lower chamber out of the majority's premium they so much adversed when the present electoral law was passed. Irony of history, I suppose.

We'll see what happens. One thing is certain: even if Romano Prodi will become prime minister and even if he'll manage to form a government, for any real issue he will want to deal with he will need the votes of the communists, the radical environmentalists and the no-globals, quite probably making it impossible for him to do something of any significance.

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