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  • Italy: A Country with No Leader
    Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned last week, but finally you'll have answers to the questions you must have about Italy's crazy current political scene
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    JANUARY 27, 2008 - Italy is without a government at the moment. Last week, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned after his 20-month government lost a confidence vote. Now, Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will meet with political leaders on Monday and Tuesday to determine how the country will proceed, according to news reports from around the world. Here are answers to some questions that are probably percolating in your mind about Italy's current, wild political system:

    Q: How did this happen?

    A: For starters, Prodi's coalition always had only slim support in the Upper House of the Italian parliament. Last week, a key ally dropped out of the coalition - and took his small political party with him. Then, Prodi and his government lost a confidence vote in parliament, which is what led to the prime minister's resignation.

    You have to remember that Prodi's coalition is a motley crew of nine parties with all sorts of wants and needs. The group is composed of parties that range from Catholics to communists. Many Italians say the coalition was always “too left” of center. For the entire 20 months that the government was in power, the coalition was plagued by infighting, internal sabotage, and political rivalries. In other words, it had no legs to stand on.

    Q: What happens next?

    A: Napolitano is meeting with political leaders to decide whether to dissolve parliament and call for an election in the spring or mandate someone to first try to form an interim government to enact electoral reforms, according to Reuters. The center-left (Prodi's group) wants an interim government, while the center-right (former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's group) wants an election. The Corriere della Sera Italian newspaper is reporting that 61 percent of Italians want an early election, whereas 33 percent prefer some form of transitional government. The Union of Christian Democrats, led by Pier Ferdinando Casini, is the only coalition standing by Prodi's group in calling for a government that would rule for about a year, according to Bloomberg.com.

    If a transitional government is created, its main mission would be to develop election reform. Napolitano has said that legislation to create a more stable government should be passed before another election, according to Bloomberg.com. In fact, Prodi's government was Italy's 61st since the end of World War II, which gives the country's reputation as having one of the least stable governments in the civilized, Western world validity.

    Q: Who will likely take over next?

    A: In the case of an interim government, Senate President Franco Marini might lead the charge to create a more stable political system in Italy, according to Reuters. Prodi has already said that he does not want to lead a temporary government, according to news reports.

    With an election, candidates might emerge and one already has. Berlusconi, who narrowly lost his post to Prodi nearly two years ago, has already begun to rally supporters. "The campaign has begun," he said to a crowd in Napoli, according to Bloomberg.com. "There must be a vote as soon as possible with the current electoral law." For now, Berlusconi's party has the lead in polls that compare his group to Prodi's, which is not surprising considering how things played out for Prodi. Berlusconi is promising stability and tax cuts.

    Q: What does this mean for Italy's place in the world?

    A: Obviously, a country with no government is at a disadvantage. Italy because of its bureaucracy and unstable government already has a hard time getting taken seriously in the European Union. Current events are not helping the situation. The most worrisome part of this story is the global economic downturn that shocked Wall Street - and ultimately the world - last week. Without a stable government, Italy could have an even harder time than its counterparts in bouncing back should a global recession take hold.

    For more information on all things Italian, visit www.francescadimeglio.com. Di Meglio is also the guide to Newlyweds at About.com and a blogger for BrideBoard.com, where she writes about wedding plans.

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