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Friday, October 14, 2011

Silvio The Survivor?

In less than an hour, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will face a vote of confidence in the lower house of the Italian parliament. As we argued before (see here), surprises are always around the corner with Il Cavaliere. And in fact, several reports in today's Italian newspapers suggest that he will win today's vote. The man seriously has nine lives (though in Italy a cat is said to only have seven lives - we're not entirely sure what accounts for the difference).

Lega Nord leader Umberto Bossi said yesterday that he had been "convinced" by Berlusconi's speech, while former minister Claudio Scajola - who is leading a faction of 'rebel' MPs and Senators from Berlusconi's party - announced that he (and presumably his followers) will support the government in today's vote.

So what's going on here? By all accounts Berlusconi should be toast, given that his popularity is close to zero and he's involved in more court cases than we can count. Well, in all fairness, Silvio played his cards well yesterday, especially when he warned that, should he lose the confidence vote, he would oppose any sort of “transitional government”, therefore triggering immediate elections. This means that:
  • A significant number of MPs from his party have suddenly seen their seats in danger. In light of Berlusconi’s shrinking popularity, many of them seriously risk not being re-elected if a vote were to take place in the following weeks/months;
  • And sadly, perhaps most importantly, this is the first parliamentary term in which new intake MPs need to remain in office for the entire five years in order to be entitled to their generous pensions. The world economy may be staring into the abyss, but don't mess with politicians' pensions.
Two powerful incentives to vote ‘yes’, don’t you think?

However, according to forecasts, the government should get 316 votes or even less - which is not exactly a comfortable majority and in some cases may not be a majority at all, given that 630 MPs sit in the Camera dei Deputati (although some of them will be absent today, which will bring the majority threshold down). In other words, we strongly recommend that you stick with us on Twitter @OpenEurope, as we will follow the vote real time.

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