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Seismic (political) event in Italy.
February 25, 2013 4:27 PM   Subscribe

There's been quite the political earthquake in Italy this weekend: the latest national elections have up-ended all expectations, with Silvio Berlusconi's populist right bouncing back to a photo-finish against the forecasted favourite center-left coalition, headed by Pier Luigi Bersani. But it's neither of their results that will cause the real aftershocks - those are the sole honour (and, now, onus) of the most meteoric of political entities Europe has ever witnessed: former comic Beppe Grillo's 5-Star MoVement, formally founded just three years ago, have crowned their national electoral debut by earning over 25% of the popular vote, becoming Italy's leading political force.

Run without any public funding, and organised via the web (where their parliamentary candidates were nominated and chosen amongst virtual unknowns), the M5S decided not to appear on any television programme during the electoral campaign, communicating only via their website, forums, webTV, social networks, and their piazza-filling Tsunami Tour. Their political programme is a colourful cocktail of popular measures and proposals; should the hung houses fail to lead to a viable government, nevertheless this fresh contingent of activists (more than 100 deputati and likely 60 senatori) will be instrumental to the basic, fundamental tasks the new parliament necessarily faces: to elect heads of both houses and a new president of the Republic, and to rewrite the law by which the next (and probably very imminent) elections are to be held.
posted by progosk (71 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man, imagine if the U.S. also had party-list proportional representation- what fun we'd see here as well!
posted by Apocryphon at 4:30 PM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Where "fun" would mean the Tea Party would have more of a voice than they already do.

Don't get me wrong -- I'd take Itallian idealist anti-poltics over American 'fuck you, I've got mine' any day of the week. But I sometimes wonder if I've idealized things like party-list proportional representation when I look at a large part of the U.S. electorate.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:34 PM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


(Sorry for the U.S. derail -- I'm actually really interested in hearing more about the actual content of the post as it is saving me from asking a question about it on the Green.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:35 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where "fun" would mean the Tea Party would have more of a voice than they already do.

Right, but most of urban America would be voting for some social-democratic party.
posted by phrontist at 4:43 PM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sorry about the derail. So, what are the various parties' alternatives to austerity?
posted by Apocryphon at 4:50 PM on February 25, 2013


I'm fascinated to see this play out. I have to admit only first hearing about them maybe a week ago when NPR did a profile on it and seemed to suggest that they would pull maybe 20% of the vote.

The most interesting factoid is the party leader can't run for office himself, on account of a prior for involuntary manslaughter.
posted by absalom at 5:03 PM on February 25, 2013


I haven't read any of the linked material yet, but from the phrasing it seemed as though the after the jump was going to reveal that they were some odious neo-nazi group like the golden dawn. I'm pleasantly surprised.
posted by codacorolla at 5:04 PM on February 25, 2013


Populists are unpredictable. I'm withholding judgment for now. It sure is interesting, though.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:07 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


From The Guardian - Italy election sparks fresh fears for euro.
Berlusconi is deeply mistrusted in the markets and Grillo wants a referendum on whether Italy should quit the euro. Mired in recession, Italy has had a decade of economic near-stagnation followed by a year of punishing austerity that has made the pledges of both men – though lambasted by their opponents as unfeasible – highly attractive.
Italy gridlock as usual.
posted by adamvasco at 5:14 PM on February 25, 2013


More chaos in Italy equals more questions about the Euro's future, which means lower US Bond rates hopefully. However much I may like Italy and the Italians, they're going to have a rough go of it for the next 5+ years at this rate.

Grillo sounded like an OK guy until the "Let's leave the EU" referendum talk. Italian bond rates would sky rocket, crushing their economy overnight. However, this won't be the first time that's happened in Italy.
posted by Farce_First at 5:34 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Italy gridlock as usual.

Well, the difference this time is that it will be very difficult to just make these grillini disappear. I'm reminded of, if anything, something akin to the Greens way back when in Germany, or the Pirate Party in Sweden - but there's a populist pervasiveness here, abetted by a lack of dogmatic/ideological identity, plus their sheer numbers (111 in the lower, 58 in the upper house) that are going to be very hard to shrug off.

An unusually quiet Grillo commented tonight (from home, via La Cosa, after thanking all the volunteers):
- this counts as a dress rehearsal;
- looks like the other parties don't have much choice other than a left+right grand-coalition
- as to which side of parliament the grillini will choose to sit on: neither, they'll be standing behind the other deputati's seats, checking their every move.
posted by progosk at 5:38 PM on February 25, 2013


Since they refuse to enter into coalition voting for them is basically the same things as "None of the Above". All this is going to do is force an inherently unstable grand coalition that will lead to another round of elections in short order. If they want to change something they should be willing to join in a government.
posted by JPD at 5:52 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


former comic Beppe Grillo's 5-Star MoVement, formally founded just three years ago, have crowned their national electoral debut by earning over 25% of the popular vote, becoming Italy's leading political force.

Am I missing something here? Guardian article claims only 3.5%... where'd the 25% figure come from?
posted by spacediver at 5:53 PM on February 25, 2013


Guardian article claims only 3.5%

That was their christening in regional elections in 2010.
posted by progosk at 5:55 PM on February 25, 2013


Berlusconi is Italy's Bill Clinton with a few less lies (and I am a Clinton fan).
posted by cjorgensen at 5:55 PM on February 25, 2013


ah thanks progosk - missed that.
posted by spacediver at 5:56 PM on February 25, 2013


Berlusconi is Italy's Bill Clinton with a few less lies (and I am a Clinton fan).

No.Clearly you are not a Clinton fan. Other than both of them having issues keeping it in their pants, they have almost nothing in common.
posted by JPD at 6:01 PM on February 25, 2013 [34 favorites]


If they want to change something they should be willing to join in a government.

From what I can tell, they're pretty clever at leveraging other ways to force change. One of their first decisions on joining the regional governing body of (debt-ridden) Sicily was to slash their own wages to one fifth of what the statutes allowed all regional councillors - forcing other to follow suit out of sheer embarassment.

Also: new general elections can only be held once a new electoral law has been drawn up - which can't be done without their votes...
posted by progosk at 6:04 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two more good Guardian pieces on Grillo and on Roberto Casaleggio, his digital strategist.
posted by progosk at 6:17 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


> If they want to change something they should be willing to join in a government.

Well no. If the Italians are serious about getting rid of the hindrance of current political experience and stronghold, the Italians need to give the Grillo Movement a clear majority.

Bring on the grand-coalition, stimulate another election, but get serious about a grillini led Italy.

It's to the Grillo Movement's credit it does things differently.
posted by de at 6:28 PM on February 25, 2013


I would be very happy to see them get a majority, but that seems unlikely. I don't think any single party has won a majority in post-War Italiy no?

I mean I disagree with their euro-skepticism, but Italian politics need to be completely overturned.
posted by JPD at 6:39 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that anyone would cast a vote for Silvio Berlusconi in 2013 fills me with a great and terrible sadness.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:10 PM on February 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


....becoming Italy's leading political force.

You meant "farce", surely?
posted by a non e mouse at 7:54 PM on February 25, 2013


The fact that anyone would cast a vote for Silvio Berlusconi in 2013 fills me with a great and terrible sadness.

I'd vote for him. He's funny. All politicians are pretty much the same, so you might as well pick one that you can laugh at. Especially in a country like Italy, where the government is such a tangle of wires that it's almost by design that it will never be sorted. I'm surprised that this election has gotten so much international coverage because Italy barely has a pretense of functional governance-- it's a wonderful country, but that's because of fantastic people who can be trusted with a Somalia-style lack of oversight.

I look at it this way: in the US, the current president and his predecessor are pretty much interchangeable policy-wise, but it's a lot easier to take when a plutocratic stereotype gleefully shits on you when the alternative is a guy who glumly rationalizes about why it's in your best interest to be shat upon. Italy's no different.

Bersani's a wet blanket. I'd like him as a history or economics professor, but if you have to watch someone pretend to lead, you want the evil clown and not the sourpuss.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:55 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that your indifference to politics is seeing it as theatre. The people who are going to be primarily fucked by the next round of "sensible" austerity will hopefully find it as entertaining.
posted by Talez at 8:05 PM on February 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


All politicians are pretty much the same, so you might as well pick one that you can laugh at.

120 000 dead Iraqis would disagree with you, if they could.

Far easier to take the advantages of State - even a bad one - and grizzle from the sidelines than vote, or care, for change it seems.
posted by smoke at 8:24 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I prefer my politics like Switzerland: dry, boring and done by committee. I'll go to the movies if I'm looking for entertainment.
posted by letitrain at 8:33 PM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't know why you all are comparing Berlusconi to Clinton or a loveable/ laughable Boris-Johnson-isque character, when he's quite a creepy, uncaring megalomaniac who tried to subvert the police in acting against a teenager he had sex with:
Rubygate, as everyone calls the scandal, has grown progressively more lurid. Two of Berlusconi’s friends [...] are charged with running a prostitution ring to meet the Prime Minister’s elaborate erotic expectations [...] For months, the prosecutor’s office in Milan had been wiretapping phones used by Berlusconi and his associates, and the twenty thousand pages of documents pertaining to Rubygate have been leaking out in Italian newspapers. The picture that has emerged is of an aging emperor, surrounded by a harem of nubile women paid to ornament his dinner table, boost his ego, and dance around in their underpants.
Then there's the irritating braggadocio:
Berlusconi has always seemed pleased with himself. In 2006, he offered some advice to Italians living below the poverty line: “Do it my way and earn more money!” (His net worth is estimated at nine billion dollars.) He has described himself as “the best in the world—all the other world leaders wish they could be as good as I am.”
Clinton did have his set of zipper problems, but I don't think he ever had a harem, or had this uncaring robber-baron-like attitude towards the impoverished.

I don't pretend to know what's best for Italy, but surely, the country deserves someone better than Berlusconi.
posted by the cydonian at 8:47 PM on February 25, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'm glad that your indifference to politics is seeing it as theatre. The people who are going to be primarily fucked by the next round of "sensible" austerity will hopefully find it as entertaining.

So want you're saying is that you agree with Mayor Curley about Berlusconi being the best choice?
posted by Authorized User at 9:28 PM on February 25, 2013


Politics isn't theater. It's a sport.
posted by Apocryphon at 9:49 PM on February 25, 2013


Well, as corrupt.
posted by de at 9:53 PM on February 25, 2013


So want you're saying is that you agree with Mayor Curley about Berlusconi being the best choice?

Berlusconi tried to put through a pretty big austerity package in 2011 and failed. Just because he's now a born again populist railing on austerity means absolutely nothing to me given his previous actions. The man would kill a baby if it would get him elected. Monti is just as bad. Just a technocratic slave to the Austrians and bond markets.

5SM isn't perfect and even somewhat xenophobic but a firm stand against austerity and a desire to see sensible decisions reached by consensus would be a hell of a lot better than the status quo.
posted by Talez at 9:58 PM on February 25, 2013


Refusing to join a coalition is probably a good thing. Berlusconi is like what an uninformed racist might come up with if you asked him to develop a caricature of an Italian politician. The centre-left are married to wrong headed austerity parties. Joining up with either one would require making compromises that would be fatal to the credibility and effectiveness of a party that is trying to reform the political culture. Witness Nick Clegg and the staggering gut-shot party he now leads as a potential consequence.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:17 PM on February 25, 2013


What I find appalling is that anybody in Italy, let alone almost one-third of the voters, still puts some trust in Berlusconi. It's like a domestic abuse victim who, after being repeatedly cheated on, stolen, beaten, brutally raped, tortured and publicly humiliated by her horrible psychopath of a husband, still comes back to give him one last chance. It's crazy. The only explanation I can come up with is that, while part of his constituency has simply been brainwashed by his media power, another, not-insignificant part is made up of people just as crooked as he is, with much to fear from an honest, clean governance of the country. And that, quite frankly, is pretty damn fucking scary.
As for Beppe Grillo, I honestly don't know what to think. While I certainly sympathise with the public's general feedupness with Italian politics as usual, many policies in his platform don't seem very well thought up. I'm afraid that he may just perpetuate the habit of telling voters what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear.
posted by Skeptic at 11:51 PM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Grillo sounded like an OK guy until the "Let's leave the EU" referendum talk.

It's because he's a Marxist. He just doesn't want to belong to a club that would accept people like him as a member.
posted by ArkhanJG at 12:15 AM on February 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Berlusconi promised to give back the IMU tax on houses imposed by austerity measures as well as make your first house unable to be seized to pay off debts. That's the promise he used this go- round to bring back his abusees.

Grillo I'm of two minds; back when he was getting started with the 5 Star Movement I could get behind his calls to make anyone who was declared guilty of crimes larger than a misdemeanor ineligable for public office. But I've been put off by his hawking of those charlatany "magic Eco" washing machine soap balls and discovering he thinks HIV and AIDS are a hoax (or at least he did at one point; maybe he's since changed his tune but that more than anything put me off him)
posted by romakimmy at 12:30 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


CNBC's Grillo interviews from December last year, and from just a few days ago. (Here's the full video of the latter, albeit in Italian.)
posted by progosk at 3:10 AM on February 26, 2013


discovering he thinks HIV and AIDS are a hoax

Yikes. Grillo generally appears to have a problem with science. According to Italian Wikipedia, he once called Rita Levi-Montalcini an "old whore", which would have been inappropriate towards any old lady, let alone such a national treasure.
posted by Skeptic at 3:25 AM on February 26, 2013


Yeah, that too put a really foul taste in my mouth, along with some comments about Rom.

I admire his message of galvanizing people to get involved in local politics to make a change, and his use of the Internet has certainly helped his popularity with the younger generation (keeping in mind Italy is very much a gerontocracy, so "younger" is a bit facetious). But I don't think he's Italy's analogous answer to Obama per se. At least IMO another xenophobic misogynistic loudmouth is just status quo for Italy's political scene. :/
posted by romakimmy at 3:40 AM on February 26, 2013


At least IMO another xenophobic misogynistic loudmouth is just status quo for Italy's political scene.

Yeah, especially as Italy has an even less palatable precedent of a xenophobic misogynistic loudmouth filling up town squares and galvanising young people long before Berlusconi...
posted by Skeptic at 4:24 AM on February 26, 2013


Berlusconi's also best buddies with Vladimir Putin (possibly the most unsavoury friendship between political leaders since Thatcher and Pinochet in the 1980s), and has been hitting the anti-EU populism hard and making hay out of it. Not to mention his dog-whistles about what a swell guy Mussolini was other than that one misunderstanding about sending Jews to concentration camps (which was all Angela Merkel's fault anyway). Should he come to power, perhaps we'll see Italy drop out of the EU (or rather walk away from it in a huff) and become an authoritarian “managed democracy” along Putinist lines.

I suspect that, more immediately, his priorities will be to hold parliament hostage unless it passes an urgent law getting him off the hook for anything he's likely to stand trial for.
posted by acb at 4:46 AM on February 26, 2013


Let's begin from the end. Grillo and his Grillini has won the popular vote. Here are the players: Right party coalition = neocon, with frontman Berlusconi. Left Party = Democrats; no real frontman. Grillini = civil protest movement; frontman Grillo. Austerity-Bank frontman = pro tempore Prime Minister Monti.

That's roughly how a number of italians perceive the present political spectrum, not unlike an horse race or a soccer match. That's one of the problems - a perception of politics understood only as a battle among different squads for the control of the Parliament.

What the first action of the newly elected Left & Right parties will be? Apparently, forming a "responsability" government. That's what they started calling for, the moment they realized Grillini weren't a minority anymore.

Why? Many Italians perceive that the welfare of the citizens is the last reason for creating a government composed of people that were exchanging insults (Berlusconi even broke the pre-electoral silence, by declaring the Italian judiciary are worst than Mafia) the day before the elections - the real reasons being:

1. they are utterly afraid of losing their power and would rather make a pact with "the enemy" than try one more election run (Grillo might as well get a larger majority);

2. they need time to change the election mechanism (they had years to change it, but they didn't, each one of them possibly thinking they were going to benefit from it) which attributes a majority bonus to the party or colation that gets the most votes fin the Parliament. Why do they want to change it? Because Grillo (or any minority) can become even more powerfu. Suddendly, bipolarism doesn't cut it anymore.

3. they need time to change style, change faces, find frontmans - because they know very well they are TOAST. They can't just ignore this election like any referendum, such as the one who rejected privatization of water.

Except that the Grillini still have a big momentum and could gain even more momentum, as any action by the "old gerontocratic" ruling power is likely to be perceived as one thing and one thing only: FEAR. And you know what they say of the great unwashed masses: once they smell blood.....
posted by elpapacito at 5:48 AM on February 26, 2013


As for charlatanism of Grillo and/of Grillini: it ought to be remembered that the previous majority party (Pdl=Berlusconi) et al had among them an incredibile number of charlatans, delinquents, escorts and more generally, people whose highest engagement with politics was voting every few years or so. ONe really can't sell Italians the idea that the Grillini, mostly green at politics (allegedly), can be any worse than the said charlatans.
posted by elpapacito at 5:54 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Monti is just as bad.

Regardless of what you think about the effectiveness of his economic policies you can't call him 'just as bad' as the man who has run Italy 3 times and is largely responsible for the current mess, the man who has been using his channels and the national channels to form an effective tv monopoly when he's in government, the man who embraced sexism in his media properties and politics and who used Milan F.C. as a populist vehicle, the man who has accused judges for investigating him and who has passed laws to avoid being convicted, the man who let Italy's foreign policy flag further while he was busy being inappropriate to foreign elected officials, the man who wouldn't know sensitivity if it knocked on the door of his villa, the man with three convictions, four ongoing trials and 19 past trials.
posted by ersatz at 5:56 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


And you know what they say of the great unwashed masses: once they smell blood.....

I think it's undeniable that the eurozone policy of deflation is destabilizing the politics in southern europe... and all it takes is one good run on the bond market against Spain or Portugal or Greece or Italy. Sensible eurocrats like Monti see themselves as stabilizing things, putting a lid on risk, but they are just building pressure.
posted by ennui.bz at 5:58 AM on February 26, 2013


Oh, for our american friends who aren't much into Italian politics: in short, what has happened there is that the pratical equivalent of Jon Stewart of Daily Show fame has just won the election with a few millions people behind him + an actual movement.
posted by elpapacito at 6:17 AM on February 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


(John Stewart crossed with Michael Moore is perhaps a more accurate character comparison.)
posted by progosk at 6:25 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Do people view the parties as stand alone entities or are the preannounced coalitions how people view their voting? I.e. - Grillo won the most votes of any single party, but of the preannounced coalitions he came in third. How does the man on the street parse that?
posted by JPD at 6:33 AM on February 26, 2013


Grillo and his Grillini has won the popular vote.

No, they haven't. They stand in third position. Impressive, certainly, although less impressive if you consider who stands second...
posted by Skeptic at 7:43 AM on February 26, 2013


the pratical equivalent of Jon Stewart of Daily Show fame has just won the election

I somehow can't picture Jon Stewart calling an almost centennary Nobel laureate and WWII veteran an "old whore". Even after allowing for the more rambunctious tone of Italian comedy.
Otherwise, if the best that you can offer is "not quite as skeevy as Berlusconi's minions", then you're in trouble.
posted by Skeptic at 7:52 AM on February 26, 2013


Berlusconi is Italy's Bill Clinton with a few less lies (and I am a Clinton fan).

As Berlusconi owns most of the Italian media and has no qualms about using it as a propaganda outlet to further his political aims, he's more like President Rupert Murdoch, if that were ever allowed to happen. The only thing he has in common with Clinton is trouble keeping it in his pants. He's much more like a mob-boss in his working methods than Clinton ever was, despite all the sinister-sounding Whitewater/Foster-Gate fantasies the US right-wing media confabulated.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:07 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I somehow can't picture Jon Stewart calling an almost centennary Nobel laureate and WWII veteran an "old whore".

Yup neither do I. So maybe a closer approximation could be Bill Hicks ( + Michael Moore, as progosk suggested.) ... but maybe Bill wouldn't have said that. Anyhow it's gratuitous, it's pointless, possibily despicable, but it had a context: in which Montalicini was accused of allegedly having received the Nobel thanks to the help of a pharma company ...hence suggesting it wasn't a deserved Nobel, but a bought for one. Nevertheless, wrong attitude and language.

But maybe more importantly, Grillo isn't indeed new to staggering contradictions. Back in 1998-9 during a show the hammered a PC into pieces, taking a neo-luddite-pro-environment stance. A few years later, he's pro-computer pro-internet . If my memory serves, he admitted being wrong about that, but of course the point was not about being wrong, but rather about adopting a luddite stance, regardless of the benefits a technology might bring.

Then again, if you consider he's a comedian, after all - and that apparently the likes of Jon Stewart, and other comedians, at the very least appear to be the people who "get" what people are angry or happy about - and if you consider that many politicians, apparently, are no longer able to represent their constituent or even talk with them, then one can understand why people voted Grillo - frustration, a sensation of being considered as useful idiots at best, disregarded entirely at worst.

Add the blatant disregard for the will of people as expressed through democratic means (abolition of public financements for political activities of parties - people voted against it - parties just made a differntly-worded set of law to override their will) plus an endless sequence of episodes of corruption - consider all of that and then some more , there's no wonder Grillo at the very least appears to be more considerate than the ilk who has governed us.

Yet it's not entirely a pure outright protest movement - certinaly it's full of simpletons do-gooders, but maybe some of them are less simpletons than they appear. At least, I guess, this is what people hope.
posted by elpapacito at 9:09 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Altought there is one thing I am going to write down here for memory: allegedly, during the last day of the Grillo Tour, all the italians TVs and journos were excluded...with the exception of Sky (yes, that Sky). Probably they had struck a deal to have a full nationwide coverage, unfiltered and unedited...but then again, they could have done the same with RAI TV - assuming RAI politically nominated directors would have allowed that.
posted by elpapacito at 9:14 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


if you consider he's a comedian, after all

This is in fact part of what bothers me. Comedians are probably the only people even needier than politicians, even more desperate to be liked. The best thing about Jon Stewart (or Stephen Colbert, for that matter), is that he's self-conscious enough to recognise this about himself, and sensible enough to understand that this would make him an awful politician.

What you say about Grillo's about-turn concerning technology is quite illustrative of this: Back in the late 90s, the luddite stance was very popular, so with his computer-smashing he was pandering to well-established public opinion. Nowadays, everybody loves the internet, so he must be the web-savviest guy in the block.

The turn that Grillo has taken reminds me very much of the late Pim Fortuyn in Holland. Both flamboyant characters having managed spectacular election upsets on populist (and generally very lightweight) platforms, with a ragtag and often ill-matched army of supporters. Without Fortuyn, his movement dissolved into a mudfight of spectacularly incompetent placeholders. While his murder certainly precipitated his movement's self-destruction, it was altogether too ill-thought, and too much focussed on himself to have lasted even if he had survived. Worst of all, not only did it not produce the clean-up of Dutch politics that it proposed, but instead prepared the path for the much more toxic Gert Wilders.

You may well contend that Italian politics could hardly become even worse than they are now. I hope that you are right, but I'm becoming rather disheartened these days.
posted by Skeptic at 9:37 AM on February 26, 2013


Where "fun" would mean the Tea Party would have more of a voice than they already do.
If we had proportional representation in the house, the democrats would be in control, as they received more of the vote in 2012.

The "Tea Party" is a totally meaningless term in terms of actual policy. What policies do the "Tea Party" support that the current republican house delegation does not? I'm not aware of any. So in fact, proportional representation in the 2012 election would have resulted in the tea-party having far less power. If we had gone pure PR with no senate, the tea-party would have zero legislative power.
Grillo sounded like an OK guy until the "Let's leave the EU" referendum talk. Italian bond rates would sky rocket, crushing their economy overnight. However, this won't be the first time that's happened in Italy.
If Italy returned to it's own currency, it could print all the money it needed to pay back it's debts, therefore no bond purchaser would ever need to worry that the country couldn't pay them back. They would become like the US, UK and Japan, which have huge deficits and almost zero interests rates. Japan's national debt is around 200% of it's GDP, for example.
I mean I disagree with their euro-skepticism, but Italian politics need to be completely overturned.
Well, Mario Monti had a chance to do that, and he failed.
I'd vote for him. He's funny. All politicians are pretty much the same, so you might as well pick one that you can laugh at. Especially in a country like Italy, where the government is such a tangle of wires that it's almost by design that it will never be sorted.
And again, the 'technocratic' 'competition' government imposed harsh austerity measures which did a ton of damage to the economy. Do you vote for the "serious" guy who's destroying your economy, or the clown who presided over years of economic growth?
120 000 dead Iraqis would disagree with you, if they could.
Do you think Berlusconi is going to start a war?

Most of the criticism of Berlusconi is based on his personal behavior, which is really not going to have any impact on the actual life of a voter.

While we might find that behavior distasteful, why should the Italian voter consider it when casting their ballot? All that really matters is how the policies will affect them personally.
I don't know why you all are comparing Berlusconi to Clinton or a loveable/ laughable Boris-Johnson-isque character, when he's quite a creepy, uncaring megalomaniac who tried to subvert the police in acting against a teenager he had sex with:
That's exactly what the republicans thought of bill Clinton in the 90s. There were all kinds of accusations of wrongdoing. Remember whitewater? Paula Jones?
Berlusconi tried to put through a pretty big austerity package in 2011 and failed. Just because he's now a born again populist railing on austerity means absolutely nothing to me given his previous actions. The man would kill a baby if it would get him elected.
If he would kill a baby to get elected, it stands to reason he would kill austerity to get re-elected. Do you think he harbors a secret love of austerity, and is planning on implementing more of it as soon as possible? I suppose we'll see.
I'm afraid that he may just perpetuate the habit of telling voters what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear.
Uh, that's how democracy works. And besides what the European technocratic establishment has been claiming people "need" to hear is that Austerity is the answer, and those policies have failed.
Regardless of what you think about the effectiveness of his economic policies you can't call him 'just as bad' as the man who has run Italy 3 times and is largely responsible for the current mess
the EU and ECB as a whole are responsible for the "current mess" and Monti is a part of that system. Berlusconi can't be responsible for the problems in Spain and Greece and the rest of the EU, except to the extent that he bought into the Euro in the first place - but it was the austerity policies that Mario Monti put in place, along with the rest of Europe that was responsible for dragging out the economic problems in the country. So to be honest Monti and the rest of the EU technocracy is more responsible for the current situation then Berlusconi.
I somehow can't picture Jon Stewart calling an almost centennary Nobel laureate and WWII veteran an "old whore".
The Daily Show actually uses crude humor all the time, although nothing misogynistic. A better example might be Bill Maher, he's also a comedian tied into the political world, and has used misogynistic language to describe Sarah Palin. Bill Maher used to be an anti-vaxxer as well, which fits with the anti-science stuff.
posted by delmoi at 11:17 AM on February 26, 2013


therefore no bond purchaser would ever need to worry that the country couldn't pay them back.

If you intend to pay your debts back in worthless "funny money" that you print in your backyard, I think that your lenders are most certainly going to worry.
posted by Skeptic at 2:08 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


the EU and ECB as a whole are responsible for the "current mess" and Monti is a part of that system. Berlusconi can't be responsible for the problems in Spain and Greece and the rest of the EU, except to the extent that he bought into the Euro in the first place - but it was the austerity policies that Mario Monti put in place, along with the rest of Europe that was responsible for dragging out the economic problems in the country. So to be honest Monti and the rest of the EU technocracy is more responsible for the current situation then Berlusconi.

I wasn't clear: Berlusconi is responsible for the state of the Italian economy as a thrice ex-PM. Economic growth over these years wasn't much to write home about and his handling of debt wasn't impressive compared to his predecessors.

While we might find that behavior distasteful, why should the Italian voter consider it when casting their ballot? All that really matters is how the policies will affect them personally.

Controlling the media, eroding the rule of law and Italian influence in the EU, and messing up the economy and the prospects of young Italians doesn't affect Italian voters personally?
posted by ersatz at 3:21 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you think Berlusconi is going to start a war?

a) I was responding to a comment about politicians being essentially the same, and equally trivial.

b) Coalition of The Willing

I do wish sometimes you would pause to reflect a little before penning these novellas, Delmoi.

Most of the criticism of Berlusconi is based on his personal behavior, which is really not going to have any impact on the actual life of a voter.

This is a very ignorant viewpoint, based on distorted media coverage in the US and elsewhere. Whilst the most sensationalist coverage has been of Berlusconi's sexual peccadilloes, there has in fact been sustained criticism of him and why he is bad for all Italians for decades. Nearly anyone with a stake in Italy or "Europe" would be aware of - and more concerned by - accusations of corruption, bribery (of judges, no less), efforts to thwart Italian law, mafia connections etc. I wouldn't be so fast to presume your ignorance of these matters is reflected either by Italians, or European news media.
posted by smoke at 3:44 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you intend to pay your debts back in worthless "funny money" that you print in your backyard, I think that your lenders are most certainly going to worry.
It's not a problem for other countries that borrow in their own currency, like the aforementioned US, UK and Japan. Why would Italy be any different? They would also be able to lend money to themselves through their central bank, which would cause inflation - but not high lending rates.
Controlling the media, eroding the rule of law and Italian influence in the EU, and messing up the economy and the prospects of young Italians doesn't affect Italian voters personally?
How can you blame Berlesconi for something that's happening across the eurozone? The problem is the harsh austerity measures demanded by the ECB.
a) I was responding to a comment about politicians being essentially the same, and equally trivial.
Yes, by saying "120 000 dead Iraqis would disagree with you, if they could." as if somehow electing Berlesconi somehow posed the risk of killing hundreds of thousands of people, or else your comment was ridiculous hyperbole
posted by delmoi at 8:11 PM on February 26, 2013


It's not a problem for other countries that borrow in their own currency, like the aforementioned US, UK and Japan. Why would Italy be any different?

It is a problem for other countries, like Argentina. It was most definitely a problem for Italy (or Spain, or Portugal, or Greece), before the euro: back then, those countries faced even higher borrowing costs than now, because lenders factored in the constant risk of devaluation.

They would also be able to lend money to themselves through their central bank

But you see, what distinguishes the US, UK and Japan from, say, Argentina is precisely that their central banks have a clear mandate not to lend freely to the government. See for instance how the "trillion-dollar platinum coin" scheme was squashed in the US. With much gnashing of teeth they've consented to buy a few bonds, but guess what? the ECB has also been buying Spanish and Italian bonds.

which would cause inflation - but not high lending rates.

Inflation and high interest rates always go together. If you have some money, you won't usually lend it at interest rates below the rate of inflation: you may as well burn it, while you're at it.

How can you blame Berlesconi for something that's happening across the eurozone?

The Italian economy has been in the doldrums for a decade and a half, even while Spain or Ireland were booming. Its problems are structural, not just linked to the current austerity (which is not "demanded" by the ECB, but by the lenders who otherwise won't touch Italian sovereign bonds with a ten-foot pole). Berlusconi's power base are the myriad vested interests, guilds, protected professions and assorted rent-seeking cronies which have weighed the economy down during this time, strangling competition, keeping the youth down, and sharing the spoils among themselves.

as if somehow electing Berlesconi somehow posed the risk of killing hundreds of thousands of people

Well, that already happened. Behind Tony Blair, Berlusconi was the person most complicit with the Bush Administration's warmongering. Apart from that, as others have pointed out, he's best pals with Putin, and has defended the war in Chechnya.
posted by Skeptic at 12:39 AM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


From the Guardian:
But the grotesque enigma that is this Italian election should perhaps be approached from the opposite direction: how did Pierluigi Bersani's coalition, built around the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD), manage to lose an election after what seemed to be the terminal decline of Berlusconi?

Three interlinked explanations offer themselves: the euro; unemployment; and the public rallies.
posted by the cydonian at 7:05 AM on February 27, 2013


Grillo's latest communiqué, after yesterday's tepid winner's-speech-cum-mea-culpa from Bersani, including its timid openings to dialogue with the M5S: Bersani, morto che parla. (The ref is to a classic smorfia number/figure; though iianm, muorto che parla - dead man talking - should be 48...)
posted by progosk at 7:33 AM on February 27, 2013


Controlling the media, eroding the rule of law and Italian influence in the EU, and messing up the economy and the prospects of young Italians doesn't affect Italian voters personally?

>How can you blame Berlesconi for something that's happening across the eurozone? The problem is the harsh austerity measures demanded by the ECB.

He governed from 1994-1995 (with one of his ministers heading the government until 1996), 2001-2006 and 2008-2011: I don't think it's controversial that leaders should accept responsibility for their actions. Besides, I blame him for things that are not happening accross the eurozone and which I listed next to my comments about the economy.
posted by ersatz at 7:44 AM on February 27, 2013


^ How did Bersani manage to lose an election after what seemed to be the terminal decline of Berlusconi?

Three interlinked explanations offer themselves: the euro; unemployment; and the public rallies.

Political commentator, Beppe Severgnini, suggests the centre-left missed the perfect opportunity to win outright when it chose the uninspiring Bersani to lead the democrats instead of the more suitable young mayor of Florence, Matteo Renzi (age 38). ... that simple. Renzi was the perfect answer to Grillo and Berlusconi, (and Bersani too).
posted by de at 1:02 PM on February 27, 2013


But you see, what distinguishes the US, UK and Japan from, say, Argentina is precisely that their central banks have a clear mandate not to lend freely to the government. See for instance how the "trillion-dollar platinum coin" scheme was squashed in the US. With much gnashing of teeth they've consented to buy a few bonds, but guess what? the ECB has also been buying Spanish and Italian bonds.
The federal reserve US owns 16% of the federal debt at the moment. The bank of Japan owns 11% of it's debt, and the bank of England owns about 26%.

The federal reserve has a dual mandate to keep inflation and unemployment low, but right now the inflation rate is actually below it's target, while unemployment is above. And in Japan, the recent PM just replaced the central bank head to make way for them to buy as much of it debt as it needs. The bond rates went down, from a whopping 0.2% to 0.1% for 5 years. (the 10 year yield went from 0.8 to 0.6)

Also, I have no idea what you're talking about with respect to the platinum coin. That was a work around in case the republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling. In fact, they did allow that to happen, so it wasn't even needed.

Seriously, I don't even get where you come up with this stuff. It seems like you're just making it up or something.
The Italian economy has been in the doldrums for a decade and a half, even while Spain or Ireland were booming.
it's precisely because of Spain and Ireland's bubbles that they are having so much trouble now. They are by far some of the worst off countries, after Greece. Are you actually saying that Italy should have had economic policies more like Spain and Ireland?
not just linked to the current austerity (which is not "demanded" by the ECB, but by the lenders who otherwise won't touch Italian sovereign bonds with a ten-foot pole
Yet, investors are totally willing to buy US and Japanese bonds despite the lack of austerity, in fact Japan is actually planning to do new rounds of stimulus, which they plan to finance by central bank purchases of bonds.

Basically, you're just spewing conventional wisdom "confidence fairy" talking points which have long since been disproven by reality.
Well, that already happened. Behind Tony Blair, Berlusconi was the person most complicit with the Bush Administration's warmongering.
Without Berlusconi the war wouldn't have happened? The original comment implied that somehow electing Berlusconi could result in something equivalent to deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

I'm not trying to defend Berlusconi, I'm simply pointing out that:

A) he's not going to kill hundreds of thousands of people if elected and

B) The austerity policies in Europe are fucking stupid, unnecessary, counter-productive, and have failed. It's obvious that people in a democracy are going to vote for politicians who do not support them.

And for good measure, C) The idea that a large country with it's own currency won't be able to sell it's own bonds is without austerity measures is false. There was never any basis for believing it in the first place, and it's clearly been disproven by the US and Japan.
posted by delmoi at 2:18 PM on February 27, 2013


(In fact, Bernanke just talked about how austerity (in the form of the sequester) could damage the economy, and needs to be avoided)

The point is, it shouldn't be at all surprising that voters would vote for people who are not associated with the European technocratic elite, who have been promoting/demanding austerity measures as the only solution, when in fact they have been actively harmful.

What's unfortunate is that when the technocratic 'centrist' elites are discredited, who people vote for can go either way, and you end up with people like Berlusconi, or insanity like Golden Dawn in Greece.
posted by delmoi at 4:00 PM on February 27, 2013


The Five Star Movement is not radical – Beppe Grillo is one of them, not us
Whatever rhetoric the multimillionaire may use, the M5S has merely intercepted discontent to create its political franchise. Translated from Internazionale.
posted by adamvasco at 9:00 AM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Appello a Beppe Grillo e gli attivisti M5S per il futuro dell'Italia: Democrazia Liquida ADESSO!
Appeal to Beppe Grillo and activists M5S for the future of Italy: Liquid Democracy NOW!   (Turn on English subtitles)

Background : Liquid or Delegative Democracy refers to any system where you delegate your vote to a delegate rather than electing a representative, meaning voters could retract their vote at any time. Some local 5-Star chapters use the LiquidFeedback software developed by the German Pirate Party. Yet, Beppe Grillo's wields far too much power within the national party, although that's true of most party leaders in Italy to varying extents.

posted by jeffburdges at 4:55 AM on March 4, 2013


Wu Ming weigh in: Grillismo: Yet another right-wing cult coming from Italy
posted by Abiezer at 1:04 PM on March 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Italian political parties are basically all cults that monopolize an ideological range, forcing non-cult members into voting for them. Italy is afaik the only country where even the pirate parties fight amongst themselves. It's therefore progress if M5S merely breaks Berlusconi hold on right-wing ideology. It's nowhere near as much progress as if they implements the principles of delegative democracy, or maybe if the left had a sane non-cultish party, but hey.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:33 AM on March 10, 2013


I take that back, seems the German Pirate Party has too much fighting online. I'm wondering if they've too many anonymous trolls from other parties or just too many crazies, probably worth trying non-anonymous discussions on liquid feedback.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:55 AM on March 11, 2013


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