Berlusconi survives vote of
Present: 620 - yes: 342
- no: 275
Article added on September 29, 2010 at 19:49
Today at 11:00 Italian time, the
countdown for the vote of confidence for Silvio Berlusconi's center-right
coalition began. Since this summer, the Italian prime minister has been in a fight with his
former ally Gianfranco Fini whom he kicked out of his party People of
Freedom because he was no longer as servile as he used to be and showed his
own ambitions the longer the more.
Gianfranco Fini sees himself as the likely heir to Silvio Berlusconi. But
for the former Fascist party leader, the vote of confidence comes to early.
He could have literally tried to outlive his rival, since Berlusconi
(*1936) is sixteen years older
than Fini (*1952). However,
the Prime Minister chose to act only two-and-a-half years into his mandate
and ask for a vote of confidence.
The Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) was the place of the
showdown. Incidentally, the Lower House is headed by Gianfranco Fini
(although he was not leading the deliberations as Speaker of the House
today). The two main culprits for the current crisis of government were
united. For Fini, the showdown came to early. For Berlusconi, the confidence
vote was another measure to secure his stay in power. He needed the votes of
the Fini faction to survive politically.
First, at 11:07, the Prime Minister had the right to speak. On the day of
his 74th birthday, Silvio Berlusconi opened the proceedings with a moderate,
statesman-like speech. The populist showman and master-salesman, who could
sell a fridge to an Eskimo, showed his serious face.
Seriousness was needed in a time of economic crisis, with Italy's
unemployment rate officially around 8,5% and public debt approaching 120% of
GDP. Italy has still to implement an
austerity package decided in another vote of
confidence in August, slashing 25 billion euros in
spending, as well as to roll over billions of its debt this year.
Prime Minister Berlusconi said luminary things such as
“the minority has to respect the legitimacy of the majority and of the
government”. The majority leader stressed that Italy had managed to get
through the economic and financial crisis without mass layoffs, that the
government had avoided the error of increasing the public deficit through an
“stimulus” package. Berlusconi repeated his will to continue on the street
towards fiscal federalism, to lower taxes and to fight illegal immigration
which, in his words, had been reduced by 88%. One of the most
critical points of Berlusconi's speech concerned his justice reform plans,
on which the Prime Minister remained short on details.
The opposition reminded the prime minister of course of his roughly twenty
tailor-made laws (leggi ad personam), which the Prime Minister had
rushed through parliament and which he had needed much less time of
During the day, Gianfranco Fini told his new parliamentary group, Future and
Freedom for Italy (Futuro e Libertà per l'Italia, FLI), to support the
government. Therefore, already well before the confidence vote, it was clear
that Berlusconi's government would survive, even if not all the 34 members
of his faction (not yet a political party) in the Lower House would follow
his advice. Fini also announced that FLI will become a political party.
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The vote of confidence regarded Berlusconi's five-point program, calling for
investments in Southern Italy, a reform of the justice system, tax
devolution, fiscal reform and the fight against organized crime. The prime
minister warned of political instability in a time of crisis.
The result of the vote of confidence, with 620 members of the Lower House
present: yes 342, no 275. Without the votes of the Fini faction,
Berlusconi's government would not have survived (316 votes needed for the
absolute majority). 3 parliamentarians did not vote.
The vote of confidence in the Upper House (Senate) scheduled for tomorrow
(September 30) will be a formality since the ruling coalition holds there a
majority even without Fini's 10 senators.
On September 27, at a beauty pageant for
“Miss Padania”, Umberto Bossi, the populist leader of the devolutionist
Northern League, tested the coalition's cohesion once more by giving Rome's
ancient acronym SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus - the Senate and People of
Rome) a new meaning:
“Romans are pigs” (SPQR - Sono porci questi Romani). Among the most
outraged men was Rome's Mayor Gianni Alemanno, a member of Berlusconi's
People of Freedom Party. With such allies, you don't need enemies.
Luckily for the coalition formed by Berlusconi, Bossi and Fini (although
excluded from the People of Freedom Party, still an ally in parliament to
push trough the prime minister's five points of reform), the opposition is
even more fragile than the government. Communists, socialists,
social-democrats, green party members and other political forces opposed to
the reign of Silvio Berlusconi can neither present a platform of unity nor a
credible common leader. So even if Berlusconi had lost the vote of
confidence, it would have been very possible that he would have won early
elections towards the end of the year.
As for the center-right coalition, it still has not produced an alternative
to Berlusconi. Italy's richest man, with conflicts of interest in almost
whatever he touches, continues to govern the EU's fourth largest economy, a
disgrace for the European concept of democracy.
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Sheet music by Gioacchino Rossini.
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