April 11, 2006
Roma Rinse Repeat
The Italian elections are eerily reminiscent of our own contest of 2000, when Gov. George W. Bush prevailed over Vice President Al Gore by the narrowest of margins -- a total of 537 votes in Florida. With 5,962,657 votes cast in Florida's presidential contest, Bush's margin of victory was 0.009%.
The results of the ballot count shows Romano Prodi's leftist coalition, called the Union, taking a very narrow lead (49.80% to 49.73%) over Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's House of Liberty coalition in the lower house of Italy's parliament, the Chamber of Deputies.
But partial results show House of Liberty leading by one seat in the upper house, the Senate of the Republic (155 to 154). There are, however, six Senate seats voted upon by Italians living abroad; if the Union wins 4 of them, they will be ahead in the Senate as well as the Chamber of Deputies. It the vote ends up with the House of Liberty ahead in the Senate, it will be a rare split vote.
In order to form a government, one coalition must win both houses; a split vote typically means a caretaker government of "technocrats" rule until a new election can be held.
While the margin in Italy's vote, which mostly concluded yesterday, is not quite Florida close, it's close enough that current Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Bush's best bud in continental Europe, is calling for a recount:
Even though votes from Italians living abroad remained uncounted, and results showed Mr. Berlusconi ahead in the upper house of Parliament, Mr. Prodi appeared just before 3 a.m. to his supporters in central Rome to claim victory.
"We've won," he said. "Now we have to work to change Italy. We have to work for the unity of this country."
But Mr. Berlusconi's chief spokesman, Paolo Buonaiuti, said the celebration was premature. "The House of Liberty contests that the center-left has politically won the elections," he said in a statement, referring to Mr. Berlusconi's center-right coalition.
There are currently eleven parties in the Union, ranging from the Daisy-Democracy Is Freedom party to the Federation of the Greens (a Socialist political party, not an association of golf courses) to a couple of flavors of Communists: the Communist Refoundation Party and the Party of Italian Communists (no word whether the People's Front of Judea or the Judean People's Front will be invited in).
However, I cannot find out which party in particular Prodi belongs to; he seems to be member at large of the coalition itself. Silvio Berlusconi is the head of the Forza Italia ('go ahead Italy") party, which he founded in 1994; FI belongs to the House of Liberty center-right coalition.
There is not much more to say until the final votes come in. Prodi's current margin in the Chamber of Deputies is about 25,000 votes; and there are those six outstanding Senate seats to be decided by the votes of Italians living abroad. After a recount -- with or without hanging chads -- and after the final Senate seats are allocated, we will know Berlusconi's fate.
In 1996, then Prime Minister Berlusconi was defeated by a coalition called the Olive Tree -- headed by Romano Prodi.
Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
-- "the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon," Karl Marx, 1852
It's worth noting, however, that the polling was very, very off in this election... in the Left's favor, as it typically is here:
During the campaign — a particularly ugly one by Italian standards — polls consistently showed Mr. Berlusconi as much as five points behind....
The first voter surveys on Monday seemed to show that his reign was over: Two polls showed Mr. Prodi's coalition taking both houses with margins of 5 percent, and center-left leaders walked right to the edge of jubilation....
But as actual results began flowing in from Italy's 20 regions, victory for Mr. Prodi seemed far from clear.
The question is, did Berlusconi actually have a sudden surge of support at the very end of the campaign, when he proposed eliminating a property tax? Or was the polling biased against him all along?
In any event, if Berlusconi dodges the bullet this time, and there is a revote, it may be good for him. With the polls consistently showing him losing to Prodi, voters who might otherwise have supported Berlusconi may have stayed home, discouraged.
But if the pair split the vote and there is a revote called, those voters might come home, giving Berlusconi more of a victory than he would have if he slightly edged Prodi's Union coalition in a recount of the last vote. Although he would have the same number of votes in the Chamber of Deputies -- Italian election law gives the winner 341 out of 630 seats, regardless of the margin of victory -- his coalition would be more stable.
If Prodi's win in the Chamber of Deputies is confirmed and he also wins the Senate of the Republic, he will form a Leftist/Communist government. But in this case, many are predicting it won't last more than six months.
Of course, it's Italy.
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, April 11, 2006, at the time of 7:06 AM
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The following hissed in response by: Don
Berlusconi is apparently asking for a recount. It's an interesting situation - the results are hanging by a knife-edge in both houses of the Italian Parliament.
Prodi declared victory with an apparent plurality of 25,000 votes in a country of 50 million people. With 3 million votes from abroad waiting to be counted, no less! And with Berlusconi's coaltition leading in the upper chamber for now. Seems to me he might have been wiser to wait unless he assumes that the voters from abroad are in his pockets?
I wonder who files suit first and whether the whole thing will hang on hanging chads?
The following hissed in response by: Jim,MtnViewCA,USA
Apologies for being OT, but I wonder if anyone can remember times when a polling result was wrongly in favor of a Right candidate?
The following hissed in response by: justphishing
Three weeks ago, on March 21, you wrote the article "AP: Saddam, the Frustrated Innocent Victim". I wrote a comment to you and your reply activated an indelible neuron. I've been remiss in thanking you for bringing back an old and fond memory - My comment was the first comment on the article, and your reply was the second.
The memory goes back to September 1959; my first month as a college freshman, and three days after submitting my first English Composition essay. My paper was handed back with detailed and extensive comments from the professor, and all other students in the class had similiar detailed and extensive comments on their papers. This was a teacher who took her work seriously and made my first year college experience great. I will never forget her (obvious, given that this occured about 559 months ago).
I enjoyed the memory, and the (detailed and extensive) contents, of your reply.
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
1948: "Dewey Defeats Truman"
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at April 11, 2006 2:10 PM
The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh
The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh at April 11, 2006 2:17 PM
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