A couple of weeks ago I had this post on the decision of the Christian Democrats to separate themselves off from the Berlusconi opposition. In the course of that post I suggested:
it is hard to see just how genuine and realistic Casini's initiative is, but if it does move forward it is, of course, just the kind of thing Italy needs. This move would seem to have two consequences.
Firstly Prodi's coalition suddenly becomes more governable, since the majority is now no longer necessarily a wafer-thin one. Also Prodi is now so dependent on the left of his coalition. This may become important as we move into 2007.
Secondly in the longer run this may provoke a 'realignment of the centre'.
Subsequently I have received a couple of interesting mails from Manuel Alvarez-Rivera (who runs the more than useful Election Resources site).
Manuel draws attention to two points of current interest in the Italian political situation:
1/ The Electoral Ballots Recount Issue (see here)
A second partial vote recount was ordered on Thursday amid claims that Italy's hard-fought and extremely close general election last April was marred by vote rigging.
The election committee in the lower house of the Italian parliament decided that all the House votes - blank, contested, spoiled as well as the good ones - should be counted again in 10% of polling stations.
On this Manuel is duly skeptical:
I'm somewhat skeptical as to the fraud claims on account of the significantly lower invalid vote figures, for a couple of reasons.
First, the decrease in the number of invalid votes could be explained by mechanical factors such as a simplified voting procedure, and most importantly political factors. To be specific, given the momentous choice between Berlusconi or Prodi, many Italian voters might have concluded it was no time to waste their votes by spoiling them or casting them blank.
Second, the 2006 invalid poll is by no means unprecedented: in both relative and absolute terms, the figures are almost identical to the corresponding totals for the 1976 election, which was a momentous choice as well, between the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communist Party (PCI). In light of the latter fact, it would seem to me that either those making the fraud claims weren't aware of this, or that they were but decided not to let a pesky fact get in the way of a sensational story.
Incidentally, if last April's Senate election in Italy had been carried out by straight PR (that is, without regional majority prizes), the overall distribution of seats would have been identical to that obtained under Italy's current electoral system. The reason for this is very simple: in eleven of the seventeen regions with PR + majority prize, the winning coalition won by itself more than 55% of the seats, and no majority prize was awarded. Meanwhile, the remaining six regions were evenly split between Berlusconi and Prodi, and as it happened the majority prizes awarded in these (which in all cases amounted to just one or two extra seats per region for the winning group) cancelled each other out. In all, the whole thing turned out to be yet another Berlusconi electoral scheme that didn't quite work out as planned.
Now there's going to be a partial recount for the Chamber election as well.
The center-left - which agreed to the recount - appears wholly unconcerned: they feel (quite correctly in my humble opinion) this is a tempest in a teapot, and that little if any changes in the results are going to come out of it. Not surprisingly, Berlusconi expects the outcome will be overturned, insisting once again he really won the election, Prodi's government is illegitimate and all the usual nonsense.
2/ Political Realignments in Italy
Manuel has this to say:
Concerning political realigments, here's a very interesting link (in Italian).
At any rate, I agree completely with your assessment of the situation. I wouldn't be surprised if the UdC were to find its way into Prodi's government, although it would be a hard sell for the far left, all them more so given the right-wing tendencies of some UdC leaders - such as Rocco Buttiglione. Moreover, right now Prodi can't afford to lose the Refounded Communists in favor of UdC, since such a move could cost the government its fragile Senate majority.
In Italy it is said the Christian Democrats have the uncanny virtue of never being too far from the centers of power, so it will be interesting to see what happens. Incidentally, Mastella and Casini used to be close allies a few years ago, when both led one of the UdC's preceding parties, the CCD.
My gut feeling is that it's no coincidence that the UDC left the House of Freedoms just days after Berlusconi's fainting spell. Casini et al have probably come to the conclusion that the days of Silvio Berlusconi as a major political figure are numbered, and that without him his party (which acts more like a Fininvest company than a real political party) may collapse altogether. Since a good many of Berlusconi's Forza Italia voters are former Christian Democrats, it would make sense that if such an event comes to happen, many Forza Italia's voters would gravitate towards a centrist alliance dominated by (who else?) the Christian Democrats.
Italy Economy Real Time Data Charts
Edward Hugh is only able to update this blog from time to time, but he does run a lively Twitter account with plenty of Italy related comment. He also maintains a collection of constantly updated Italy economy charts together with short text updates on a Storify dedicated page Italy - Lost in Stagnation?