Surprise surprise, the winner is… Silvio Berlusconi!!!! Allegria!!!!
Allegria!!! and "the winner is" are the unfogettable exclamations of Mike Bongiorno, a popular TV anchorman who paved the road to Berlusconi and, in a way, was his prophet.
Italy is in a state of chaos and riots, inside and outside Parliament, but the situation is I think quite clear.
First clear lesson: I do hope this is the end of the myth of Fini as a great politician and tactician. Let’s remember his story. He became leader of the fascist MSI by co-optation from above, selected and nominated by the old man of Italian neofascism Almirante (co-organiser of the deportation of the Jews under the Repubblica di Saló) who (him, not Fini) had understood the MSI needed, to grow, a leader who was not biographically associated to historical fascism. He was even struggling to keep the leadership of that little party (he was ousted for a while in 1989-90) when, suddenly and by pure chance, he was nearly elected mayor of Rome in 1993 – but only because all conservative and centrist parties had dissolved in the corruption scandals; in other words, he conquered dominance of the centre-right only because of the absence of competition (football similitude: Inter’s titles in 2006-08). In the new role, he overnight rejected fascism and embraced democracy (just like changing socks) and entered a joint venture with Berlusconi: Gianfranco had the party structure and political expertise, Silvio had the cash. In 1995 and 1996, he had two opportunities to get rid of Berlusconi, who was defeated, disillusioned, ill, and had more than one foot in jail; but he wasted his opportunities and he spent the following 14 years in bitterness (think Gordon Brown), waiting for a new chance. When this emerged last summer, his lack of intelligence led to five months of byzantine tactics and the catastrophic failure to make his sums in yesterday’s vote. The vote was a surprise only to him (for once, I had predicted right in the blog of the 30th of July): turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.
The opposition’s PD and Fini himself are now in a state of denial, pretending Berlusconi did not win, because his majority is of just three votes. Well, the PD did not say this when it was Prodi, in 2006-08, to have a majority of three; and even outside of Italy, there are plenty of governments with paper-thin majorities: Major 1992-97, Kohl 1994-98, most recent Spanish governments… and it is more than likely that some more turkeys will go back to Silvio’s hen house, boosting his majority to more confortable levels.
One note on the most distressing turkey, whose surprise vote for Silvio caused a riot in the Chamber: Catia Polidori. Her family business is CEPU, a large private university-tuition company that in other countries would be called plagiarism wholesale, an e-bay for essays and dissertations (its testimonials are football stars, with the implicit message: if they can get degrees with CEPU, anybody can). Berlusconi's government allowed CEPU to create an open university (e-campus), entitled to sell legal degrees. And she awarded Berlusconi her vote of confidence - how lovely. By the way, just like Berlusconism is not much different from Murdochism, CEPU is not much different from the university plans of the new UK government (and of some vice-chancellors). And Berlusconism as a regime is much more than his person, meaning that even if he died tomorrow, we are not guaranteed anything better.
All this leaves the most depressing conclusion on the state of the Partito Democratico, Italian’s so-called opposition. It spent five months sitting in the salivating adoration of saviour Fini, instead of doing any politics. It was not even awaken by the fact that in near-all local primary elections for the selection of mayoral candidates, the party nominees were defeated by independents (last in Milan). In the meanwhile, the absence from Parliament of any leftwing party (for the first time since 1946), and the Left's lack of at least a ‘right of tribune’, means that radical opposition takes the form of street riots…