Saturday, December 22, 2012

His Master's Voice?

The countdown continues. Only hours now till Monti announces his decision, and the Italian political system can get on with its life. Will he run? Not? Sort of? "Neither yes nor no," Monti offered today, showing at least some humor at all the hype.

I would make the case, though, that the form in which Monti, or montismo, enters the lists is pehaps not the most interesting thing happening at this moment, despite all the hoopla. And no, Berlusconi's hysterics aren't it either. I would turn instead to journalist Federico Geremicca's column in today's Stampa, where he looks at the nearly invisible drama of Bersani and the PD. This election is, after all, theirs to lose. And Geremicca comes to the same conclusion I do: that the Vendola question, which needs to be resolved before the campaign can enter full swing, is the pivot on which Bersani rises or falls.

In this discussion 'Vendola' really stands for the legacy of the fractured, fractious Italian left in recent decades, the lingering aura of the Italian Communist Party, the adherence of people like Bersani and Vendola to that legacy, their sincerity as 'reformers.' Bersani has earned a certain 'fiducia' as a reformist minister and unwavering supporter of Monti's government: from Frankfurt to the Wall St. Journal he is seen as relatively 'safe.' Vendola, not so much. And beyond the actual election--but very much a part of the campaign--lies the question: could Bersani govern with the center parties, the montiani with or without their eponym, without dumping Vendola or at least taming him? Geremicca thinks not,  and he cautions Vendola to "think harder about how much is at stake" and desist from his "daily attacks on Monti, his government, and his agenda."

But wait. Vendola's often severe attacks on Monti have stopped, at least for the time being. Vendola's blog is all about Puglia and the successes his regional government is reaping (better employment and export statistics than the rest of Italy, prison reforms, even some praise for Monti's government's indemnification of the Ilva steel workers). You would hardly know there was a national election campaign starting up, with its dramatic twists and turns.

One of the nightmare scenarios for PD sympathizers like Geremicca is the spectre of undisciplined leftist allies that brought down Romano Prodi in 2008. Bersani loudly proclaims, This time it's different; we're one party, not eleven. Vendola's discretion may prove him right--but where does that leave the Left?


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