The Italian duel is over

Nuova immagineThe Italian twenty-year long political “duel” seems to be eventually over. One of the contenders, the television tycoon Silvio Berlusconi turned politician and three times Prime Minister is ending his career as defendant on tax-fraud and prostitution probes while his opponent, Romano Prodi, the economics professor and state-industry executive who managed to defeat twice Silvio Berlusconi at general elections, publicly announced he was retiring from politics just at the very eve of the Milan court ruling that sentenced the former to seven years jail for the Bunga Bunga scandal.
Just a few weeks earlier Prodi was defeated in his attempt to be elected president of the Republic, but many things have changed in the country’s political landscape since then. President Giorgio Napolitano was given an unprecedented second term, the centre-left agreed to form a grand coalition with Berlusconi’s centre-right after it unsuccessfully tried to strike an agreement with the protester M5S movement of Mr. Grillo, the centre-left won the government of Rome and other 10 important municipalities in a turn of local elections in May and June which saw the defeat of the centre-right and a dramatic de-escalation of the M5S.
As of end of mid June everything seemed to be in favor of Mr. Letta government at a point that some policy watchers started to talk that his cabinet might even last a full 5 years term. Then the sentences on Berlusconi arrived: first, Italy Consitutional Court on June 19th rejected a Berlusconi’s petition for a four-year tax-fraud conviction to be struck down, then just five days later on June 24th a Milan Court sentenced Berlusconi to seven years in jail and banned him from public office for having sex with an underage prostitute, and abuse of power. Mr Berlusconi remains a free man while he appeals against the ruling, but the feeling of his alliance with the centre-left partners obviously deteriorated, as Berlusconi’s supporters blame justices of being politically biased while the centre-left ally PD starting feeling increasingly embarrassed with its voters who hailed the two blows as a long-awaited vindication.
Analysts and policy watchers now share the view that the local polls outcome along with the two sentences acted as a catalyst for those in the centre-left who hardly digest the fact of being in the same government alliance with a long time foes and fed their appetite for a change: a change of parliamentary majority, with part of the M5S MPs abandoning Grillo and joining the centre-left by contributing with enough votes to make those of the PDL redundant; or even a change through early election, to be held as soon as in the spring of 2014, that many in the PD believe can be easily won given the poor state of both the Berlusconi PDL party and the Grillo M5S movement.
In both cases, some observers believe that such a development could prompt the resignation of Napolitano, who was the strongest supporter of the grand coalition between the centre left and the centre right. Should that be the case, the political game would start again from where we were in March 2013: the election of the president of the Republic first, then the remaining.

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