In the election run offs this weekend, the PDL (Berlusconi’s centre right party) lost everything, along with the Lega Nord. Grillo’s 5 star movement won Parma, and became an official party of government. Other ‘civic lists’ and minority parties did well – the monolithic PD (Labour) held its own. All of which goes to show the deep dissatisfaction with the usual politics in Italy. Berlusconi is in a conundrum. He leaves office and the PdL falls to pieces. Even today Bondi the secretary has had his resignation turned down. So for Mr B, it is he and he alone who binds the right together. ANd this is his problem- he has already said he won’t return to lead the PdL so his answer is to make a new party. Another. How many times he can spin himself into a vote catcher is becoming the question on everyones lips. If he does reenter the political arena with his various scandals (today his brother has been indicted for unfair pressure on a council), can he pull the right together and win again. It is to be hoped that this time the Italians will see through it all.
In the meantime – la Santanchè is trying to be states ladylike – and failing dismally. Not only does she have a voice that can shatter plexiglass, she has absolutely no style, no true political stance, and no idea of how to behave. She would be the worst possible choice for party leader, which means, in italy, that she will be no doubt be elected.
And yet –
It isn’t until you see the figures before you that the scale of them sink in. 1.6 billion euros per year, more than the UK, Germany France and Belgium combined. 1.6 billion euros to run a government that seems incapable of governing. Yearly pension payments to ex deputies of 120 million euros.
Until recently you only had to be a deputy for a year to qualify for a lifetime pension that started when you left parliament.
Even now, pensions can be totted up – there are some senators – now ex deputies – that are banking more than 35000 euros per month in salary and pension.
Then there are the party expenses. ELectoral expenses in Italy are paid per vote – at the eye watering figure of 5 euros per vote received. The parties receive over 200 million euros between them every time they have an election – and in Italy it is quite possible that that is once a year. There is so much money washing around the corridors of power that the parties cannot spend it, nor keep tabs on it.. Sig Lusi – a treasurer of the PD (Labour party) is currently being taken to court for filletting away at least 13 million euros and no-one knew anything about it. Belsito – the treasurer of Bossi’s Lega Nord apparently had a free hand to invest the League’s money where he liked – diamonds, houses, investments in Tanzania and so on. The crisis at the moment in Italy is decried by politicians as being ‘antipolitica’ but when politica has failed so spectacularly what did they expect.
The ex Chancellor Tremonti has said the crisis is all over the world, and its not just Italy with such problems. It’s true – a British MP uses public money to build a greenhouse and there is outrage, he resigns and the police take action. In Italy there are no resignation, precious few apologies and everything carries on as before. When a crisis rips a party apart, the other parties remain ominously silent – the ‘club’ holds strong making the Italian man in the street suspect that the club exists only to feather its own nest.
Mr Tremonti is a strange man – the Geoffrey Howe of Italian politics, but with a rahter more interesting sideline. He was, and remains, a tax avoidance consultant – his firm invoices over 4 million a year in fees, helping fellow Italians escape tax. Noone found this odd when Tremonti became Chancellor, odder still when he passed the Scudo fiscale allowingwhat were previously known as criminals, the opportunity to bring back their money to Italy paying only a 5% tax on it, instead of the 40+ due. He says that the problems of Italy are due to a over burdensome fiscal system and a Guardia della FInanza (the fiscal police) that are too active. Tremonti declared a little over 35000 euros as his income last year.
The latest man to become the focus of media attention is Roberto Formigoni the surprise winner of the last election as Governor of Lombardy. Being governor of the richest region of Italy – that of Milan – is no small job, and it is Formigonis job to allocate funds for health, education, and so on. WHen he has super luxury holidays apparently as a guest of the man who seems to win all the hospital contracts in Lombardy he refuses to acknowledge any misjudgement. Even a letter from the wife of a consigliere whois awaiting trial for having his hands in the till explaining that she and Formigoni went to teh same parties, dinners and holidayed on the same yachts so his expression of not being a friend of his host fall slightly flat. He will not be dismayed – private holidays which he paid for but has no proof of doing so – it is, he denounces, envy and politically motivated. It may well be, but he shouldnt be dismayed if people want to know more.