The chronic illness of Italian politics is instability. Since the 2005 revamp of the electoral law, Italy has seen five prime ministers come and go. The shortest interval between calls to the ballot box was 12 months, the longest 30.
When Enrico Letta took on the task of forming a grand coalition government of national unity in April this year, he made clear his two priorities: reform the electoral law to guarantee stable political institutions, and revive the economy to improve employment.
The centre-left Democratic Party leader Letta has control of the lower parliament assembly but is weakened by his lack of a clear majority in the senate. To govern, he’s obliged to ally himself with the centre-right under Silvio Berlusconi.
But the right is hamstrung by its mentor’s personal decisions, his detractors say: in his clashing with the Italian justice system, Berlusconi orients his party to take up positions according to his own interests, which prevents the government from doing its job.
In July, Berlusconi was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on a conviction for tax fraud, afterward trimmed to one year. He has repeatedly tried to have elections called early in order to push into the future the date he must begin serving his sentence.
A few days ago, at the weekend, he seized his disagreement over raising VAT as grounds to call his party to quit the government.
President Giorgio Napolitano, however, refuses to send the nation back to the polls until that electoral law is changed; he says it’s the only way to cure what ails Italian politics.
Furthermore, members in his own group remonstrated with him, and Berlusconi had a sudden change of heart.
He now calls his party to support a vote of confidence in the Letta government.