Electoral Reform – again?
With elections in Italy looming on the near horizon, it is scarcely a surprise to find yet another political fiasco brewing in the hazy world of Berlusconi politics. This time, he is attempting to steam-roller a change in the voting system just 6 months before the next set of elections.
There is no secret that the electoral system is in dire need of sorting out. At the moment, despite the changes made back in 1993, it is still wide open to “manipulation” by the more canny – furbo – politician, allowing several “extra” seats to be awarded those clever enough to manipulate the system of “scorporo”, as it is called. There isn’t an easy way to explain the current system, save to say that it has most certainly not been successful in achieving the main objective of the 1993 change - to introduce some sort of stability into the electoral system.
There has been much discussion over the past few years about the need – or desire – for electoral reform, which has resulted in referendum proposals in 1999 and 2000, seeking to reform the system introduced in 1993. Sadly, they were invalidated when voter turnout failed to reach the required quorum of fifty percent of the registered voters plus one. Nonetheless, an overwhelming majority of the electorate that took part in the referenda supported the proposals, reflecting a growing sense of frustration with the electoral system as it currently stands, but illustrating the general sense of helplessness that was felt at the time – hence Berlusconi’s later electoral victory.
In point of fact, it is Berlusconi himself that has felt the worst effects of the current system. Back in 1994, when he was first elected to the Prime Minister’s office, he fell foul of the Lega Nord, led by Umberto Bossi, when Bossi withdrew his support for the Forza Italia party in a fit of pique, thereby bringing the fragile coalition down, precipitating yet another election. Now, Lega Nord is a very small political party with less than 4% of the national vote. However, with the 1993 system, the Lega were able to get seats on the government and have enough power to actually bring down the government of the time. It is hard to say that there is no need for reform with that background, I feel.
But – and it is a recurring “but”, sadly – Berlusconi seems to have honed his talent for “putting his foot in it” to an extent that should give him his own entry in the Guinness Book of Records. He announces a reform that is half-baked at a time when it would appear to any observer that his only motive is to “rig” the forthcoming elections in his favour, given that his popularity is sinking fast at the moment. The world press have clamoured for Berlusconi to back down and leave the electoral system as it is – at least until after the elections. Probably it is the best advice he could have, but, I suspect that he will just dig his elevated heels in somewhat further and claim the world is both against him and that they are all communist in any case. Even I sigh and lift my hands in the air at the thought!
Tremonti, Fini & Berlusconi
Perhaps Silvio is worried that he might lose the elections next year – or, at the very least, lose his seat of power to one of the other members of his coalition, such as Fini, perhaps. He doesn’t have a great deal of time left in which to modify the criminal code so that it continues to protect his current immunity from prosecution status either. Perhaps all of those new friends he has made in the Italian judiciary will feel perfectly comfortable with the thought of Silvio appearing in court after his term in office is over and apply what laws are left unchanged against Berlusconi. After all, there are some of the very best brains in Italy in the judiciary that he will have to deal with then, not just a marketing guru that thinks FIAT should change its name to Ferrari in order to increase sales. Silvio, a word here. You are wrong. Boyo.