You have no doubt heard that the Italian election has left the country, and possibly the European Union, in a state of confusion. The left has won in the Lower House, and the right in the Senate. Hardly anyone is interested in the two winning coalitions, however, since all attention is focussed on the Five Star Movement of the standup comedian Beppe Grillo, which got about 25% of the vote in the lower house, making it the largest single party, (though behind when votes are counted for coalitions, instead of for single parties) and on the party of the outgoing “President of the Council” or prime minister Mario Monti, which trailed a poor fourth with around 10% of votes.
What a mess, or cock-up. The Italians have two words for such a situation, which translate as “whorehouse” and “abattoir”. Take your choice, but beware of the horsemeat.
Italy has a system of proportional representation with minimum scores for entry which are different for parties and for coalitions of parties, different for the two houses, and different for the regions and for the country as a whole. Two percent of the votes here and you exist; nine percent there and you’re dead.
I’ve been living in Europe and out of Britain for thirty years, and one of the things that has convinced me that the European Union is rubbish, a myth, a fantasy, is the fact that no country is the slightest bit interested in the internal politics of the others. This is my modest attempt to rectify this situation.
For a start, no one is interested in the losers in a foreign election. I feel an instinctive sympathy for losers. Here are some of the losers in Italy:
The Moderates 0.0%
The Revolutionary Moderates 0.2%
Liberals for a Just Italy 0.0%
The Italian Marxist-Leninist Communist Party 0.0%
The Alternative Communist Party 0.0%
Italian Reformists 0.0%
All Together for Italy -
(I’m not sure what “-” means, but it seems to be less than 0.0%)
Note that the 59,000 Revolutionary Moderates are allied with Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition, while the 11,000 Moderates are allied with the left. Also allied with Berlusconi was the the Pop-Singers Party, which gathered a rather disturbing 18,000 votes, or 0.1% of the electorate.
The Socialist Party, which was running Italy when Berlusconi took over, didn’t figure on the lists for the lower house, but scored 0.2% in the Senate. Not bad for a party whose leader died in voluntary exile in Tunisia, a country which didn’t have an extradition treaty with Italy.
Whenever I’ve tried to talk politics with Italians, they’ve hung their heads in shame and changed the subject. They’re wrong. Italy is an example to all of us who believe in democracy as a dynamic force, the lifeblood of our society.
[This is a point I’ve tried to make to my offspring. One was an (unsuccessful) parliamentary candidate for “Stand Up the Republic” (the French equivalent of UKIP). The other is affiliated with the Scottish Federation of Anarchists - alas with little success].
OK, Italy is a country where relatively few read the serious press, and most people get their information from the Berlusconi-owned independent TV or the Berlusconi-influenced public TV. Which is why the minority that are interested in politics are so well informed; why millions tune in to AnnoZero, the one independent public TV discussion programme, to hear journalist Marco Travaglio castigate the politicians of all stripes who have criminal records or outstanding problems with the law (about a third of the members of the lower house, the last time I looked).
Marco Travaglio is a long-time friend of Beppe Grillo, the anarchist comedian who is now in the position of kingmaker in the Italian parliament. Travaglio defines himself as a conservative. Week after week he reveals to Italian viewers the truth about Berlusconi’s links with the Mafia, the corruption which lies at the heart of all parties of left or right… He was awarded the annual prize for investigative journalism awarded by the German press corps – as if Rome was Moscow or Harare. Did you hear about that? Of course not. Nor did the Italians.
* * *
Among the losers in the election was “Civil Revolution”, a party formed recently by a magistrate from Palermo, Sicily – Antonio Ingroia, whose party got less than the 2% required to be considered as part of a coalition, despite the fact that it was supported by:
The Communist Renewal Party
The Italian Communist Party
The Green Federation
Italy of Values
The Orange Movement
Change if We Can
The Red Agenda
The People Raped.
Ingroia was the magistrate who revealed the links between Berlusconi and the Mafia back in 2004. He retired as a magistrate and went into politics last year after the Supreme Court refused to let him investigate a telephone call between an arrested Mafia boss and the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. Four of the groups named above were formed by magistrates, or the relatives of murdered magistrates, who had similarly been obstructed in their investigations into the links between politicians and organised crime.
There is a tenuous link between this and my obsessive interest in climate change. 99.9% of my censored comments at the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” have been about climate change. But I’ve also been censored by the Guardian for pointing out that an obscure Milan property developer called Silvio Berlusconi once employed a Mafia boss on the run as his stable boy. This fact is well-known in Italy, but not in Great Britain. In Italy people risk their lives to get these facts known. In Britain, newspapers employ lawyers to keep these facts secret.