Sunday, December 23, 2012

Monti Doth Bestride the Parties like a Colossus

Finally we have the answer: Mario Monti would like to return as Italy's premier, but he wants to be invited, not elected. A rational choice (who would have expected less?), if the polls speak truly when they give him only 15% at the head of a center-right coalition. A clear electoral defeat would have exhausted his store of magic. Without his star power, those center-right parties--Casini's UDC, Fini's finiani, Montezemolo's non-party--will probably harvest even fewer votes ... but perhaps enough to keep Bersani's PD from a clear victory. In the negotiations that follow will Monti have a chance to form the government? I wouldn't think so, but maybe better odds by that route than by any other.

Meanwhile Berlusconi's PdL and Maroni's Lega are already at the barricades, waging populist war against Monti, his taxes, his recession, his Germanic affections, his subtlety. If either were less discredited, one could almost imagine such a critique taking hold--Italy is in terrible shape, Monti's 'reforms,' the fraction that were passed, have borne little tangible fruit, while the reduced borrowing rates--arguably the one real sign of his success--are not the stuff of popular applause. But how could anyone take them seriously, the much-indicted Lega or Berlusconi with his clownish on-again off-again courtship of the Monti he now disparages? I've been wondering for nearly 20 years ...

And to Monti's left? With Bersani there seems to be little room for strife: praise was flowing abundantly in both directions today, and Bersani is clearly preparing to run on his loyalty to Monti--a much-repeated phrase--with all the credibility that brings him in the Euro-world. By far the most pungent remark Monti made in his lengthy press conference--more so than the headlined questioning of Berlusconi's "linear thinking"--was his warning to Bersani: "Vendola has a right to ask Bersani to keep a distance from the Monti agenda, and Bersani has a right to consider whether he will." But will he?


At December 25, 2012 at 12:01 AM , Blogger Richard Mounts said...

Where did you find the wonderful picture? It looks like the Jolly Green Giant just stepped off a can of peas. But why so hard on Monti? So why wouldn't he adopt this strategy of presenting his agenda and indicating he'd lead a government that was committed to it. As a late-comer to Italian politics (the last 8-10 months), Monti, whatever the limitations of his policy accomplishments, seems to have done a lot to move the country towards a post-Berlusconi politics. And that probably means a non-Berlusconi center-right. It may still be in formation, but seems a real possibility. Also, from what I can tell from people I talked to during a recent month's visit in Lombardy, Monti's had a notable positive effect on political psychology. He, along the PD primary, seems to have given a lot of people, at least in that part of the North, new reasons to believe in politics. Meanwhile, do you have any thoughts on Paul Ginsborg et al.'s Cambiare si può project?

At December 25, 2012 at 8:15 PM , Blogger brent said...

Thanks for your interesting comment. A couple of replies:
--I find Monti personally impeccable, and share your impression that he has restored a certain dignity to the Italian political system, which sorely lacked it. My criticisms are more of his austerity politics, which (as a good pupil of Paul Krugman) I suspect would be disastrous over time for an Italy in deep recession.
--Maybe you're right that a center-right government under Monti's tutelage will emerge, but what seems more likely to me is a center-left one, with Bersani in the premiership. If so, the big question will be: will he govern to the center, perhaps bringing Monti in in some capacity, or to the left, incorporating some of Vendola's critiques and challenging the ECB's prescriptions for social sacrifice.
--Finally, I have come to Italian politics pretty recently, am just catching up to some important events from the recent past, and wasn't aware of Ginsborg and the Cambiare si può movement. Thanks for pointing it out. Doesn't seem that it has much electoral political heft as yet, though some of what I just read was of great longer-term interest. Incidentally, what interests me about Vendola is not his Communist past or what Monti called his 'conservative' labor politics, but rather his visionary environmentalism, which has much in common with the Cambiare folks, I think.


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