End of a Love
More drama on the Italian scene. This time, the drama takes place at an open debate of the PDL, The People’s Freedom, Italy’s ruling coalition led by Berlusconi. For us Italians, so used to kisses, tears, love, hugs, and the various performances of the defenders of “Love that wins over hatred and envy”, today was a bit of a shock.
Here’s what happened. There were these elections in Italy, a couple of weeks ago. Against the odds, and in spite of a quite messy build-up in the final weeks, the Right Wing, Berlusconi-led coalition, brought home a clear success over the not-so-charismatic Left-Wing opposition (see previous post). The clearest outcome of the elections were that a) few people than ever went to vote and b) more people voted for the Northern League.
The Northern League is one of the most influential parties in Italy, with strong leaders and clear plans about reforming Italy. It is known for its commitment to protecting Italy’s culture and values, and for a perfectly rational attachments to tribal ceremonies like baptizing each other with the water of their sacred river Po. They use to refer to themselves as “colonies of Padania”, and are somewhat wary of big associations, like multi-region nations, not to mention the EU.
It turned out that the Northern League was the real winner of the Regional Elections: Berlusconi got less votes for himself, but could take advantage of the Northern League’s votes, given the latter belongs to the coalition he leads. As some have pointed out, this has had some serious effects on the Government’s next moves.
Enter Gianfranco Fini. This is Fini:
In spite of 16 (!) years of life together, he’s often showed a dissatisfaction with having to deal with Berlusconi. How could it be so? – one may wonder.
This unhappiness has increased after the regional election and the already mentioned Northern success. Fini, who leads the second more important Right-Wing group in the Government coalition, AN (National Alliance), got somewhat tired of the PDL’s supine obedience to the policies the Northern League is now pushing. Again, it is hard to accept this may be possible..
After weeks of mild reciprocal challenges, the two came to a showdown today. Fini got to talk at the PDL convention, and he raised some criticisms directly at Berlusconi. Now, it is important to specify some things:
a) no one criticises Berlusconi
b) even more importantly, no one ever criticises Berlusconi in public
c) no one ever criticises Berlusconi in front of TV cameras
Fini breached these three fundamental principles of Italian democracy, and in fact he has already been labelled a communist (according to the Italian rule that says “against Berlusconi” = against democracy = communist). He went on the stage and raised questions to the PM: mainly, he questioned the direction the PDL is taking. He highlighted contradiction between claiming to intend to defend the authority of the law and enacting some policies. He prided himself for criticising the PM openly in spite of being ridiculed by ‘certain press’ owned by PM’s relatives. He congratulates the PM as the real winner of the regional elections, yet he also asked “to be honest: now that the elections have gone, let’s say clearly that none of us believe there was a plot from the judges to deprive us of the victory, but that we just messed it up ourselves..”.
Too much, even for an ex-fascist. I’m surprised he’s still alive. Berlusconi got on the stage after him, and made it clear to him that if he wanted to make criticisms of the Government’s action, he should abandon his role of President of the Lower House of the Parliament, because he is meant to be super partes. Curiously, Berlusconi never gave similar orders to the President of the Senate, Renato Schifani.
“Our party has been exposed to public humiliation by its own members! Gianfranco, let’s talk to each other clearly! You said you are ashamed of having formed the PDL! This is the truth!!” Then he continued: “You are supposed to be super-partes, you cannot make judgments on the Government action! You cannot make these judgments if you are President of the Lower House.” Fini, from the audience, stood up and, waving his finger at Berlusconi, asked “Or what? Are you going to kick me out?”
The country is under shock. A breach in the PDL seems hard to avoid. Right-wing voters express their rage against Fini, “the traitor”, the mercenary sold to the communists. Left-wing voters struggle to acknowledge sympathy for an ex-fascist who has also shared Berlusconi’s bed for the last 16 years. Berlusconi is surely preparing one of his stylish coupe de theatre. The Northern League, in the meantime, appears unshaken by these issues.