Silvio clings on… for now.
Posted by homoeuropeus su 14 ottobre 2011
It is possibly the untold dream of every prime minister, to enter the chamber welcomed only by the ovation of your supporters, and address a parliament without any opposition, being interrupted only by cheers and applauses.
Though Silvio Berlusconi would certainly love this populist prospect, he was tense and with a gloomy expression when he spoke to an half-empty Italian parliament on Thursday, having all the opposition parties decided to desert the chamber as an extreme sign of protest against the continuous vilifications of parliament and of any democratic practice by the embattled prime minister.
During the week, Silvio Berlusconi’s government lost a crucial vote for the approval of 2010 outturn public accounts, a situation that would have forced any prime minister to resign. Berlusconi, instead, belittled the episode as a ‘technical fault’, wanted parliament to vote again on the original proposal and called a confidence vote in order to show that the government still controls the majority in parliament.
He had no problem securing an absolute majority of just one in the confidence vote today, but the parliamentary debate testified the irrefutable doom of this government.
Even if Berlusconi manages to cling to power till the natural end of parliament in 2013, he will not be able to approve any significant measures aimed at reducing the budget deficit and restoring internal confidence and international credibility to the Italian economy. The only thing he will do is to keep together an engulfed majority, claiming, as he did on Thursday, that ‘there is no alternative’, an argument described as ‘pathetic’ by the leader of the Democratic party Pieluigi Bersani.
There is an emblematic picture of Berlusconi’s main ally Umberto Bossi, sitting next to him on the government benches and unashamedly yawning again and again while the prime minister is trying to make his case to the chamber.
The second powerful image which symbolises the real change in the political situation in Italy, is that half-empty chamber: there was much discussion over whether to adopt the boycott of parliament (a technique known as Aventino which was used unsuccessfully in 1924 by the Socialist party to contrast the rise of Mussolini). The decision taken by all the opposition parties proved right: rather than a moment of despair and defeatism those empty seats show an opposition united and able at last to put the country’s interest before political differences and personal mistrusts. The country had already turned its back to Berlusconi (whose approval rating is below 25% in the polls), though its voice is not majority in parliament yet. However, deserting the chamber, the Democratic party with all its various allies has proved able to be in tune with the feelings which are now majority in the country.
The government has survived today the umpteenth confidence vote, but what happened demonstrates that the opposition, even without an alternative prime minister and a shared manifesto, has now found a new united voice and, whenever the moment arrives, will be ready to give Italy a new, credible, government.