A final battle of Silvio Berlusconi?

Is Italy moving towards more political instability before the elections after  Silvio Berlusconi’s party more or less withdrew its support for the Prime Minister Mario Monti on Thursday?


Mark Donovan, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff School of European Studies, Cardiff University

Berlusconi’s re-entry into politics is destabilising in and of itself:

a) It focuses attention on Italy in a way that is unwelcome to most international elites who hoped that he would disappear from the front line of Italian politics.

b) There is speculation that the government will resign, leading to early elections. That’s destabilising because the outcome of the election is uncertain, with 40%+ of voters not knowing how they will vote; the Five Star Movement possibly poised to take 10-15%; confusion in the centre ground; and uncertainty who the presumed plurality (largest minority, i.e. not majority) “winner” Pierluigi Bersani/the PD will form a coalition with.

c) It postpones restructuring of the PDL on a post-Berlusconi basis, which is very much needed.

On the other hand, it is true that, with regard to the PDL, several weeks of uncertainty have ended – in some respects. Primaries are not going to be held. Berlusconi is going to champion a (sic; not “the”) centre-right – or “right-centre”, since the more moderate “centrists” of the UDC & Towards the Third Republic can be seen as a very moderate “centre-right”. The key question thus becomes, will the centrists accept Berlusconi as their Prime Minister candidate against Bersani, reasserting the “bipolar” party system format? This seems unlikely. It happened in 2006, but not in 2008. It’s extremely unlikely in 2013.

d) Another uncertainty that could be resolved, is whether Monti will enter politics as the PM-candidate of the centrists. President Napolitano advised against this, arguing that Monti must remain a “resource” to be used by whatever government is formed. That makes sense.

e) A further uncertainty, and one that increases instability, is the prospect that Berlusconi will focus his electoral campaign on attacking not only the “communist” left i.e. Bersani supported by (it is expected) the SEL; but secondly: austerity politics. This is, arguably, particularly destabilising since there is 1) intellectual foundation to the critique, 2) it is a flank the Monti government has left exposed; 3) it has emotional and hence mobilisational “pulling” power – though this may largely deflate the Five Star Movement.

Geoff Andrews, Writer and Academic, Author of the book Not a Normal Country: Italy After Berlusconi

In my view, Italy has been in a situation of political instability for a long time under Mr Berlusconi’s governments and indeed since 2001 in particular. He has dominated Italian politics for almost two decades and has had a very regressive impact on Italian culture and society. The Monti government appointed – not elected – in November 2011 brought some temporary economic stability but has always been dependent on the agreement of the main parties, of which Berlusconi’s Party of Freedom (Pdl) has the parliamentary majority. However this party is now very divided and could implode over the next few weeks. The Centre-Left parties have improved their vote and look more united and stable and are closer to Monti’s reforms, though they also need the support of the left. Elections are due in the Spring. Berlusconi yesterday promised to fight another election. He is very unpredictable and the centre-left historically has been very timid in opposing him. This time however his own party has doubts over his leadership. It will probably be his last battle. The situation is still uncertain but better than it was when Monti took office. There is consensus on the centre-left that his economic reforms were necessary.

Carlo Bastasin, Visiting Fellow, Center on the United States and Europe, The Brookings Institution, Editorialist, Il Sole-24 Ore

A perıod of turbulence before the electıons was wıdely expected. Sınce the last polıtıcal phase coıncıded wıth a serıous crısıs of most tradıtıonal partıes the transıtıon to the new vote ıs accompanıed by very rough wınds. Paradoxıcally the polıtıcal uncertaınty should not affect the fınancıal and fıscal posıtıon of the country. The budget law and fıscal plans for next years are already constraıned by the EU norms. The fıscal compact has already been approved.


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