After the catastrophic regional elections in which the Center-left won 11 of the 13 presidencies of the regions which were up for election, Berlusconi went into a state of denial and tried to smother over any problems about the direction the country was heading in.
The Northern League (led by Umberto Bossi), as a result of the victories in Lombardy and Veneto (both northern regions with very strong Leghista followings and the ONLY regions won by the center-right) insisted on taking control of the policy agenda on issues like devolution (federalism) and tax-cutting. The National Alliance (neo-fascists), led by Gianfranco Fini, has always been wishy-washy with respect to federalism and supports state-subsidized corporatism and not neo-liberalist ideas. UDC (headed by Marco Follini), meanwhile, tends to side with the latter because of it Christian Democratic heritage.
All these differences are now coming to the fore as a result of the regional elections. The League wanted to take over the agenda, AN refused to allow this and suggested a policy more oriented to the South. UDC agreed.
Then, Luca Cordero de Montezemolo, head of Confindustria (the big business lobbying organization) stepped in and announced that the country was going down the tubes economically and it would be inappropriate to waste another year campaigning and electioneering instead of addressing the fundamental problems. All the Unions agreed.
This extraordinary amount of pressure and conflict just seems to have pushed the UDC into thinking it would be better for the nation if they were to quit the governing coalition and the National Alliance into its call for a vote-of-confidence. Berlusconi, as of this morning, still obstinately refuses to acknowledge the need for a change in course.
The situation is complicated and there’s a great deal of self-interested positioning going on as well. Marco Follini, for example, wants to preserve his ass from this mess so that he can run for President of the Republic in the future.
It’s all falling apart. Even if he manages to pull a rabbit out the hat, here, and hold onto power for another year, the government, IMO, will be a lame-duck.
According to this morning’s l’Unità:
In sum, the Berlusconi government doesn’t exist anymore. And this time an operation of maquillage will not be sufficient to hide the wounds. The president of the Republic wouldn’t accept it. A new executive is needed, a formal crisis. And it will be a crisis without a pilot, in the dark.
The withdrawal of Follini, who before moving obtained the benediction of Pierferdinando Casini [president of the Senate and top member of UDC], is explicit: “We must assume our responsibilities [for this failure in the regional elections] in the name of “the general interest of the nation which we must seek to cultivate.
This is the price that the premier [Berlusconi] must pay for his obstinacy in continuing to go ahead as if nothing had changed. Fini bowed his head. Casini and Follini didn’t.
Meanwhile, the reaction from the center-left was swift and unequivocal:
Ha ha haaaaa!!! Who told ya’ so folks? Who told ya’ so?? It’s just a matter of time now.