Monti and Berlusconi

James Walston answers some questions about the political situation on his blog.

This was a question that came in today, similar to many others:

Do you think that Mario Monti might run as a political candidate? If yes, how and with whom? Could a party headed by Monti have a chance of winning more votes than Bersani's coalition? Will Berlusconi be in a strong position to control events after the elections?

My students are taking their finals this week; this is one for me, in 250-300 wds…

Monti is a life senator so he has the luxury of knowing that whatever happens next year, he will be a member of the upper house – he just has to stay alive. But that’s not the real question. Is he going to stand as a candidate for prime minister… or as a possible minister?

My guess is that he is not going to go into party politics in any explicit way, supporting this or that list or this or that party and leader. He seems to be a man of principle rather than one seduced by the sirens of power; if that is true, he is pursuing his economic agenda and will continue to do so whoever wins the elections. He’ll do this whoever is prime minister and he will be that much stronger if he does not support anyone explicitly but he will try and condition the parties and leaders who are seeking election.

His natural partners are the Catholic centre – Casini and the UDC with possible friends but if he joins them explicitly, then he would become a supporter of a group which is polling around 10%, the fourth biggest party after Bersani’s PD (at c. 35%), and the populist extremes of Berlusconi and Grillo (anywhere between 15 and 20% each). Much better to stay above the fray (the Vatican stays out of the UN so it does not have to vote and is all the more influential for that) and condition the whole campaign as he has done very ably since he told the world he would resign on Saturday.

As for Berlusconi, we have two jokers in the political pack – him and Grillo and both are showing signs of losing control. B has lost the support of most of his followers, on the right, ex-Alleanza Nazionale, from the Northern League and also from a good portion of the centrist ex-Forza Italia and even Popolo della Libertà and this evening he was again ranting against the judiciary “cancer of democracy” and a Bersani in thrall to a left-wing Vendola and the “communist” trade union. On the other side, Grillo has told anyone who questions his democratic credentials to get out of the movement (on the lines of “I’ll hit anyone who calls me violent”).

Still, both of them at the moment would win enough seats to condition (not control) the new government. And as anti-European populists, it would be interesting to see Berlusconi and Grillo in bed together – it might even happen!

If Berlusconi did have 100 deputies he could certainly influence the government enough o look after his own intersts but he wouldn’t be able to dictate the agenda.
As in previous election years, the American University of Rome will be hosting a two day conference covering election issues, parties, policies and personalities, with analyses from scholars, journalists and politicians. This year it will be on 8-9 March 2013 originally a month before the likely date of the elections, now more likely to be almost a month after the probable 17 Feb elections. The keynote speech will be given by Paul Ginsborg.

Twitter: @WalstonJames

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