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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 07 novembre 2011 alle ore 12:13.


Politics has its own laws, which are inevitable. One of them regards inertia: it says that it can help a divided ruling coalition survive a few months, maybe a year, but in the long run it wears away the reasons for the government alliance. The slogan that Andreotti used "it is better to get by than to kick the bucket" was extremely successful in story-telling, but it has no relevance in the history of Italian politics. By getting by, the governments of the First Republic at the end always kicked the bucket in a few months and just when they were lucky in just a few years.

It is the disease that Silvio Berlusconi, more than fifteen years ago, said had been overcome by a new phase of decision-making in politics. But instead his ruling coalition and his third government are ending up their historical adventure in inertia.

For many observers the incoming week is decisive for the Government. Tomorrow, or Wednesday at the latest, they will vote, for the second time, on the annual state balance sheet, a relentless test for the survival of the ruling coalition. It is difficult for the Government not to obtain the necessary votes, but if it does not reach the absolute majority of members of the lower House (315), and this as things stand today seems more than possible, inevitably a new phase will begin in which all scenarios will become possible.

This is an ironic result for a government alliance, between the Lega and the Pdl that at the beginning of the legislature could count on one of the broadest parliamentary majorities in Italian politics since the end of the Second World War. It is not a problem of Fini leaving the alliance or the extravagant private life of the prime minister, but the reason lies in the substantial incapability to face head on the problems of a sinking Country.

First the conservative choice of Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti (who in the first phase had the merit of keeping the Country on track), then the internal differences between the Lega and the Pdl, finally the direct contrast between the super-minister and the Prime Minister: these are the steps of an economic policy that was ever more blocked by vetoes and fears of loosing consensus.

It will also be the story of these days. Between today and tomorrow the maxi-amendment drafted by the Government to implement the commitments made towards Europe should arrive in Parliament. Let's hope in a belated increase in awareness. But the drafts that went around after Wednesday's Cabinet meeting once again reflected inertia, the surrendering policy.

Compared with the letter sent to Brussels, the two key points, and more importantly the ones that Europe and markets most expected, were missing. The pension reform, with an increase in the retirement age to 67 and the reform on the labor market with new legislation on lay-offs. These are two points that also the central bank deemed essential. And the ECB has already made clear that it will not carry out for much longer the role of substitute, by purchasing public bonds, towards the noncompliance of Italian politics.

Other things were also missing from the texts. For example, the drastic shift of the fiscal burden from labor and business towards private wealth, towards static capital. Also missing is the ambition to shift on VAT the tax burden that today weighs on labor and people with lower salaries. Another missing piece is the courage to put an end once and for all to the injustice between generations of old-age pensions.

Is it possible for the ruling coalition to find a last minute remedy and to insert in the maxi-amendment at least a couple of these measures? We will have to see in these next few days. This is really the last chance. But it is clear, at this point, that the extent of the crisis of the ruling coalition makes this possibility difficult.

And so history repeats itself. After all, the season for Bettino Craxi finished when the positive reformist push of the first years of his government ended up in Government inertia in the second half of the 1980s, which then brought to the 1992 Italian financial crisis. And in the same way the reformist ambition of Berlusconi is ending up in inertia. And yet again it is a dramatic financial crisis, and not the normal mechanisms of a parliamentary democracy, that is taking on the responsibility of writing the words: the end.

(Translated by Yael Schrage)

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