Inside Italian Politics

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Italian politics are really fun. Once they are understood, they can even be enjoyable. Two particular events, however, serve to illustrate how few people in general — including some Italian elected officials — really understand these things.

The first revealing episode comes from the reaction to a 90-minute documentary film distributed on DVD, “Killing Democracy,” by Beppe Cremagnani and the editor of the weekly “Diario,” Enrico Deaglio, about the alleged voting irregularities during last April’s Italian Parliamentary elections.

The second revealing episode, reported in an article by Massimo Seracini (an overseas candidate to the Italian Parliament), illustrated the unfamiliarity with Italian politics by the Italian Senator Renato Turano, who was elected in North and Central America.

Seracini reported that, during a debate in the Italian Senate, Turano stated that he “was trying to understand how the [Italian] Parliament works,” and what he “had found so far, scared him.” Oggi7 published the full statement by Sen. Turano, which concerned the State budget, in its Nov. 26 issue. Contrary to the actions taken by the Italian Senator, elected in South America, Luigi Pallaro —who managed to get an additional 14 million euro for his constituents — Turano’s intervention had nothing to do with representing the interests of Italians abroad.

It is important to understand that Italian politics are characterized as a mixture of Byzantine and Machiavellian actions. For the Machiavellian part, there is logic and strategy: nothing happens by chance as that often seems to be the case. For the Byzantine part, the backstabbing is always present, but it is dealt with effectively, since Machiavellians accounted for them.

Senator Turano has a place squarely among many pundits who, even though they live inside politics, still manage to be surprised and incredulous by Italian politics.

The affair that Deaglio noisily documented had been boiling up for months. The facts are not certainly laudable, but reality, in Italy, is what is! In reality, voter imbroglios don’t happen only in Italy. Look at the various voting recounts in the U.S. presidential elections, and in Mexico, now with three presidents!

It was clear from the beginning that the center-left coalition parties, and specifically, the former Communists (now abbreviated as DS), were well prepared for the vote count, armed as they were with a platoon of volunteers. Just for what concerned the overseas vote count, some observers reported that ballots were left openly unattended and under full supervision of the large DS contingent that volunteered to count them.

Subsequent hidden-camera reports and newspaper investigations could not sufficiently prove that, at least for overseas ballots, there had been transgressions afoot. One of the overseas candidates was even upset that, even though he “personally filled 4,000 ballots, only 2,000 were credited” to him. Knowing that it was illegal to get ballots from voters; he didn’t speak out about the scam to the Italian authorities.

Reportedly, what happened at Castelnuovo di Porto, in the outskirts of Rome, during the counting of ballots from overseas Italian voters, reflected the nationwide dismal voting picture.

This situation was subsequently denounced by the former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, but still without action on the part of the authorities. After all, in Italy, those who are elected are called to determine if the elections were ethical and correct.

Apparently, a few political leaders from the center-right coalition got wind of the center-left’s supposedly mischievous machinations (prior to the elections, Berlusconi indicated how the “Communists” were ready to make imbroglios), and reportedly put in place their own machine, which, according to Deaglio, was the control of the blank ballots. Indeed, the blank votes went from the traditional 1.7 million, to less than 445,500, which surprised all exit pollsters and analysts.

After the center-left victory, the story circulated in Rome that Berlusconi was so furious that for a month he refused to speak with his then Minister of the Interior, Giuseppe Pisanu, who was responsible for ballot counting.

From Switzerland came reports that the governing center-left parties would not denounce the supposedly center-right manipulation of the blank ballots if it would not vote against the proposed State budget.

Tellingly, before this offer, the government asked for a vote of confidence in the Chamber (where it wasn’t needed, since they have a majority). After this reported offer, however, the government planned to go through with the vote in the Senate (where they don’t have a guaranteed majority), possibly because those at the center-left were assured of passage.

After Deaglio made his documentary public, all the center-left parties disavowed it, in an attempt to salvage the alleged agreement. Now no one wants to really talk about imbroglios and ballot recounts, including the State regulators.

Roman district attorneys are now investigating Deaglio for having created such a fuss, while former Communications Minister, Maurizio Gasparri, publicly asked “Who’s behind Deaglio?” because, in Italy, politics control everything.

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