This is perhaps not so surprising as Italian politics can be exceedingly murky. Since I've lived here 40 years and I am close to the situation, let me try to unravel the mystery for you.
It all goes back to two blunders Berlusconi recently made, no doubt the result of his own personal hubris and conviction that he's the boss and everyone will follow him, no questions asked.
To which he added a last minute false step yesterday at the end of the vote of confidence in Parliament. He made a so-called "u-turn" (see articles below) and decided to support Prime Minister Enrico Letta in the hope of pulling his followers together. That made him look ridiculous, even though the foreign press didn't "get it" and thought he'd helped save the government.
But it was too late! He didn't save anything, the vote was already in and many of his party members appeared not to have realized he'd changed his mind! A perfect comedy of errors that was very visible on television last night with Berlusconi collapsing in tears:
|(Photo credit: Yahoo News)|
The giant has finally fallen off his pinnacle and won't rise again, the "charismatic leader" has lost his carisma. The vote of confidence was overwhelming in both chambers, at the parliament (435 yes, 162 no) and especially in the Senate that Berlusconi was supposed to control (235 yes, 70 no). Senators that used to follow Berlusconi have stopped following him, providing the Letta-Alfano government with what the Italian press calls "self sufficiency" (or autonomy from Berlusconi and any other opponent, including the M5S, Grillo's new party). The coalition government is now secure until 2015, exactly as young Prime Minister Letta wanted it (he's only 47).
|Enrico Letta (Photo credit Wikipedia)|
Berlusconi's party, the PDL, is in tatters, and a new group in the PDL party has risen around Angelino Alfano, the Deputy Prime Minister, the PDL party secretary and the man who was once seen as Berlusconi's possible successor and (in any case) his protégé since Berlusconi has never wanted to designate a successor.
|Angelino Alfano (photo credit Wikipedia)|
So what were Berlusconi's two major mistakes?
1. Some two weeks ago, he unilaterally tried to revive the original party he had created back in 1992 when he started his political career, Forza Italia. He'd hoped to infuse renewed vigor in his PDL party but only managed to create a sense of surprise and confusion among his followers. Now, unless you go to elections and register a new name for a party, you cannot change a name just like that. At best, you can create a group with that name within an existing party, clearly a move that has the effect of fragmenting the party - strangely enough, Berlusconi, maybe because he is too old (77) and too full of himself, didn't see it coming.
2. When he decided to cause a government crisis by removing the five PDL ministers from the government, he didn't consult Alfano in spite of the important positions this ex-protégé of his had in both the coalition government (he's the Deputy Prime Minister) and the PDL (as secretary of the party). Berlusconi did this all on his own, with just a few extremists around him, no doubt yes-men.
Berlusconi's problems are not over now. They are just beginning: a Senate commission starts deliberating on Friday this week whether to expel him from the Senate because of his tax fraud conviction. Tax fraud is viewed seriously: it is a tenet in the Italian Constitution that such a conviction is proof he is "immoral" and cannot hold a political position. Everyone expects the Senate to expel Berlusconi.
And once he's lost the protection of the Senate, he is going to be in deep trouble, because he is accused of many more felonies, abuse of power, corruption, allegations of sexual misconduct with young girls etc etc (for a list of controversies affecting him, see here)
So the Berlusconi era is over. What next?
Looking to the future, Italy has now two young promising politicians that have shown they were adept at moving through a complicated crisis like this one: Enrico Letta and Angelino Alfano. Hopefully, they are now in a strong position to guide the country out of the recession.
What is your opinion?