Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Coup in Italy

Italy’s crisis and the crisis of democracy in Europe

Italy’s unelected pro EU President has just set a democratic election aside by preventing anti-EU parties forming a government


Alexander Mercouris




28 May, 2018

Before analysing what has just happened in Italy and discussing its likely consequences, it is necessary to say something about the fact of what has just happened.

Italy is supposed to be a parliamentary republic with the Prime Minister and the government accountable to the parliament.

As in other parliamentary republics the Italian President is supposed to be a figure above politics, whose primary function is to safeguard the constitution, which he is sworn to uphold.  He is not supposed to meddle in day to day politics or to take on himself the leadership of the country.

Italy recently had parliamentary elections, which parties which can be broadly defined as ‘anti-EU’ decisively won.

Italy’s most prominent pro-EU party, the Democratic Party, saw its vote fall to 19% of the vote.  By contrast the leftist but anti-EU Five Star Movement won 32% of the vote, whilst the right wing but even more anti-EU Northern League won 17.7% of the vote.

After complex and protracted discussions of a sort which are by no means unusual in Italy, the Five Star Movement and the Northern League agreed to form a coalition government together.

That coalition government would have represented the two anti-EU parties which together won almost 50% of the vote in the parliamentary elections, and which have a majority in the lower house of the Italian Parliament the Chamber of Deputies.

There was no obvious constitutional or legal reason why that government, which represents the parties which won the parliamentary elections, should not have been allowed to take office.

In the event that is not what was permitted to happen.

The strongly pro-EU Italian President Sergio Mattarella – who is not directly elected, but is elected by an electoral college made up of the two chambers of the Italian parliament and of representatives of Italy’s regions – to the surprise of some (including me) appeared to agree to the coalition’s suggestion that its nominee Giuseppe Conte should be Italy’s new Prime Minister.

However, in what I strongly suspect was a prearranged move, he then vetoed the coalition’s nominee for Finance Minister, Paolo Savona.

This is despite the fact that Savona is an experienced banker and an internationally recognised economist, who has headed several of Italy’s banks, and who has previously held ministerial office.

In vetoing Savona’s appointment Mattarella did not question Savona’s qualifications for the Finance Ministry post or question his general competence.  Savona’s record makes that impossible.

Nor did Mattarella say that Savona was unfit to hold office because, for example, he suffers from ill health or has a criminal record.

Instead Mattarella vetoed Savona’s appointment because of Savona’s known skepticism about Italy’s membership of the Eurozone, with which Mattarella happens to disagree.

Mattarella has dressed this up by talking of the negative reaction to Savona’s appointment by the financial markets, and of his “duty” to protect Italy’s savers.
As to the first, that subordinates the will of the Italian people as expressed in a democratic election to the opinion of the financial markets; as to the second, that is purely Mattarella’s opinion, whilst the nature of his “duty” to “protect” Italy’s savers is unknown to me.

I would add that it also seems to be a case of “protecting” Italy’s savers by setting aside their votes.

In either case these seem to me to be strange reasons for a President to give for in effect refusing to confirm in office a Finance Minister selected by a government which had just been democratically elected by the people.

In reality I suspect that Mattarella never intended the coalition to take power.  He did not reject Conte because that would have been too obvious a rejection of the outcome of the election, so he rejected Savona instead, knowing that that would be unacceptable to the coalition, and would cause it to return its mandate to form a government.

In that way Mattarella is now able to say that the coalition’s failure to form a government is its fault, and deny that he has set the verdict of the election aside.

In fact this is a straightforward case of the European political establishment – of which Mattarella is very much a part – setting the result of a democratic election which it doesn’t like aside.  Moreover it is not the first time the European political establishment has done this, though it has not done this previously in quite so flagrant a way.

Thus back in November 2011 the Italian Presidency was also used to help engineer the resignation of Italy’s then Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi who also had by this time. become something of a bête noire for the European political establishment.

Berlusconi  says this was because he refused to apply for a loan to the IMF, which would have required him to impose swingeing austerity measures on Italy.   Spain’s former Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero says that’s true.

As happened after Berlusconi was forced to resign, so now, the Italian Presidency is moving to appoint a rigidly orthodox pro-EU technocrat to run what is sometimes called a “technical government” in place of a government democratically accountable to the parliament.

In 2011 this was the former EU Commissioner Mario Monti.  This time it is the former IMF economist Carlo Cottarelli.

This is despite the fact that Giuseppe Conte – the coalition Prime Minister designate whose appointment the President has effectively blocked – commands a majority in the Chamber of Deputies, which Cottarelli of course does not.

Cottarelli in fact embodies and is committed to implementing precisely the mix of policies – fiscal orthodoxy, ‘supply side reforms’ and unending austerity inside the Eurozone – which Italian voters rejected in the elections in March.

There is an old British quip that if voting changed anything it would be abolished.  That is not true in Britain.  In Italy however the Italian people have just been given a lesson that voting changes nothing.

Back in November 2011, whilst the plotting against Berlusconi was still underway, but shortly after the European political establishment had engineered the resignation of Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, I wrote the following on my personal blog
If the European Union collapses as a result of this crisis this will be the moment when that collapse begins.  The European Union is supposed to be a union of democracies yet faced by the greatest crisis in its history its response is to impose its decisions by arranging the removal of the government that is supposed to be accountable to the people affected by those decisions whilst denying those same people a say.  Moreover it seems that Greece is only the start.  Steps are apparently already underway to engineer through the Italian Presidency the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Italy so that it can be replaced with a new government that is more amenable to the wishes of the French and German governments and to those of the central European institutions.
Acting in a democracy to deny the people the right to a say in the way they are governed amounts to a coup d’etat.  This is so regardless of whether this coup is carried out legally or not.  The political crisis in Germany in the early 1930s was precipitated by the perfectly legal and constitutional step of forming technocratic governments that had not been elected and which were not accountable to the German parliament the Reichstag, which sought to use Presidential powers to impose by decree austerity measures the German people had not voted for.  The result was a crisis of legitimacy that ended in dictatorship.
I do not think that this time things will go this far but no one should be under any illusions about the momentous nature of the events that are now starting to unfold.  Europe is on the brink and its crisis has just stopped being only economic.

Compare that with what the British writer and commentator John Laughland is now saying about the Italian crisis
I don’t think it’s a constitutional crisis in Italy, I think it’s a constitutional crisis in the whole of Europe.  We’ve seen now systematically how members of the European elite, of which President Mattarella is an excellent example, use every method they can to prevent parties wielding power if that power is to be wielded against the euro or against the European Union.

Back in March, immediately following the Italian parliamentary elections, I discussed the reasons for the rise of anti-EU parties in Italy and across Europe.  I said that it was the inevitable outcome of the increasingly anti-democratic style European politics have been taking for several decades now and especially after the Eurozone was established.

I should have added that it was also an inevitable response to the draconian economic policies that go hand in hand with those politics, and which in the case of Italy have delivered two decades of economic stagnation.

I also said that the European political establishment appears incapable of learning anything from this, and appears determined instead to dig in, making it a certainty that resistance to it will continue to grow
..instead of analysing and responding to what is happening the European establishment across Europe is retreating into denial.
Thus the parties and leaders who are increasingly winning votes are dismissed as “populists” – a label which is both meaningless and deeply anti-democratic – their voters are dismissed as ‘ultra-right’ and racist, and their electoral successes are explained by sinister Russian meddling which is supposed to occur but of which no evidence is ever found…..
Unfortunately, as its denialism about its repeated electoral defeats might lead one to expect, the establishment in Europe instead of changing its approach is simply digging in.
Thus we have seen the manipulation of the French electoral process in order to engineer the election of Emmanuel Macron in France, the cobbling together of the ‘grand coalition’ in Germany, the threats against Poland and Hungary, and the increasingly frantic attempts in Britain to reverse or water down the Brexit vote.

Unfortunately – as I also pointed out in the same article – in the desert which is post-modern European politics, no convincing alternative to the European establishment exists.

Though the coalition in Italy between the Five Star Movement and the Northern League mathematically speaking commands the support of around half of Italy’s voters, the two parties are ideological opposites, and it is far from certain that the coalition they have formed would have held together in government.

Moreover there are serious doubts not just about the viability of its programme but about the managerial competence of its members.

Whilst it is certainly possible that the two coalition partners will vote down Cottarelli when he comes to parliament for a vote of confidence – forcing elections in August – and whilst it is also possible that the two parties which make up the coalition will increase their share of the vote in the August elections – no one should assume any of that.

Italy being Italy, it is not impossible that the coalition will fracture, or that there will be a strong reaction against it at the polls.

In that case the coup will have succeeded, and the ancien régime will have been restored.

However that will not resolve the underlying crisis not just in Italy but in Europe.
In my previous article I spoke of the situation not just in Italy but in Europe being one of paralysis – what the Greeks called stasis – a state of immobility or ‘standing still’ despite the situation having become intolerable.
Just as everywhere else in Europe, the political system in Italy looks increasingly discredited and broken, but no viable alternative exists to put in its place.
As Gramsci once said
The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.
In the current political paralysis – what the Greeks called statis – “standing still” – the chaotic electoral result in Italy is just one more of the “great variety of morbid symptoms” which are bound to appear.

Events in Europe over the last few months illustrate the extent of this paralysis vividly.  Consider for example

(1) the inability of Merkel and Macron to agree together a programme for EU reform and the growing personal antipathy there is said to be between them;
(2) the resurrection of Germany’s unpopular and discredited “grand coalition”despite the severe setback it suffered in the German parliamentary elections last September;

(3) the inability of the EU to stand by Iran and to develop an effective response to Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the JCPOA or to respond to the further sanctions on Iran which he is imposing (see this discussion in the Financial Times).

The fact that the EU is almost certain to extend the sectoral sanctions it imposed on Russia at the end of June, though barely anyone in Europe believes in them any more, also tells the same story.

In Europe – not just in Italy – not only is it a case that “the new cannot be born”, but the Europeans look increasingly unable to break out of the prison they have made for themselves.



Italy - The Beginning of the End of the European Union - by Debs is Dead

by Debs is Dead


29 May, 2018

The news out of Italy over the last two days has the potential to completely change the game as it could end in the destruction of the EU.

The original Euro Community was an admirable ideal as it emphasised the rights of all citizens of member states, guaranteeing them a range of protections from unjust and stupid demagogues. Unfortunately the neolib corporatist globalists took over the machinery and turned it over to a gang of cold-hearted technocrats who used the once estimable governance structure to enforce a draconian monetarist policy. - see Greece.

Now Italy has finally jacked up and the EU, mimicking Amerikan methods that have wreaked so much havoc upon the world (see the 1975 dismissal of the elected Australian Labour Government by the englander queen), the EU has bribed, blackmailed or extorted the Italian president Mattarella, into destroying Italy's newly elected government just because he suspects this government sees Italy's future outside the Franco-German dominated Eurozone (Germany bludgeons with money, France has the military power). Italy's prez just like Australia's Governor-General is alleged by the PTB to be apolitical then when the ordure hits the ventilator citizens discover that the loudmouths weren't nutter conspiracy theorists, they had been speaking the truth.

The new government is a strange marriage of left and right which perplexes neolibs but makes sense to voters who aren't over the moon about the innate racism of the rightists or the old school leftists regard for centralisation, but who consider that the extreme tendencies will be cancelled out with the new government unifying around their shared belief in the primacy of the Italian people. Mattarella has completely ignored the election result and is trying to install an IMF technocrat as the leader of an unelected government. Even that worthless neolib whore england's grauniad sees Matarella's move as problematic:

Privately, some analysts who were supportive of Mattarella said it was far from clear whether he had made the right moves and whether his actions would inflame populist sentiment at a fragile moment in Italian history.

It pays to remember that unlike Greece who had suffered the effect of being oppressed and robbed by the Amerikan installed fascist military junta for 40 years, a junta which simply took control of the pre-1945 German Nazi machinery, Italy has been somewhat luckier. Although Amerika used the likes of heroin pushers/pimps Meyer Lansky and Charlie 'Lucky' Luciano to install a mafia government, Italians successfully used their system, which was freer than Greece's to push back The Italian economy is number 3 after Germany and France in the EU. The EU needs Italy.

Remember when the same stunt was attempted in Greece, the people chucked out the cold hearted arsehole at first opportunity (even though they reckoned without the spineless puppet Tsipras (of course the Italians have checked out their nominees thoroughly to ensure there should be no repetition), but the Italian constitution which Mattarella has so shamelessly used and perverted to pull his stroke, will bring his strategy undone.

That same constitution gives parliament the power to veto the President's pick, which it almost certainly will do, meaning there will be an immediate new election, one where a majority of Italians appalled by their Presidents tyranny will swing behind M5S and the Northern League with a vengeance and the odds of Italy staying in an unreformed EU must be considered to be extremely slim.

The real question is will Merkel and Macron have the good sense, will and political control to recognise that the jig is up and it is long past time to make the remote Brussels EU mechanism far more responsive to the wants and needs of its members' citizens?

Such a move would almost certainly take the momentum out of the little englander's Brexit as while it wouldn't do a thing for that dying out breed of "Let's put the 'Great' back into Great Britain" mob, it would slice off the somewhat conflicted humanist base who are torn between a desire to be a part of Europe and the need to GTFO of such a crudely undemocratic mess that is the EU in 2018.

I reckon that although Merkel has the balls to force a change she now lacks the political power and though Macron may be able to convince his neolib cronies, every one of whom owes his/her gig to Macron's corrupt deceit skills, Macron lacks the strength of purpose to make changes and save the EU.

Unfortunately that means that Europe is likely to fall into the millennia old warring factions that finally kippered it from 1914 onwards. Amerika will be happy in the short term, but without a unified Europe to back it up, the Amerikan empire will be buggered pretty quick.


'We are with people, not bankers’: Italian Euroskeptic coalition lashes out at pro-EU interim PM

The appointment of a former IMF director as interim PM shows that Italy’s president is "with the bankers," not the people, the head of Euroskeptic Lega Nord has said, exemplifying the widespread anger over the unprecedented move.

They are with the bankers and the powerful ones. We are with the Italian people," Matteo Salvini, the leader of Lega Nord, wrote on Twitter shortly after President Sergio Mattarella announced his decision to make ex-IMF director Carlo Cottarelli interim prime minister on Monday. The defiant message was accompanied by a photograph showing Mattarella, Cottarelli, former prime minister Matteo Renzi, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Mattarella. Salvini is pictured below, rallying a crowd.

Cottarelli’s appointment comes a day after Mattarella refused to sign off on a new government assembled by Lega and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S). Both parties have criticized the euro and the European Union. After lengthy negotiations, the two parties joined forces to create a collective majority in parliament and form a new government.

Lega and Five Star wasted little time before lashing out at Mattarella’s decision to block the appointment of their choice for economy minister.

What a terrible day for Italy and for democracy,” Salvini said in a Facebook post on Sunday, following Mattarella’s decision to veto Paolo Savona's nomination for the post of economy minister. Savona has been a vocal critic of the euro, and Mattarella said he could not approve his appointment because it could potentially risk Italy’s exit from the shared European currency. “The government ‘of change’ could not be formed, because the Lords of the Spread and of the banks, ministers in Berlin, Paris and Brussels were against it,” Salvini wrote. He later added on Twitter: “Italy is not a colony, we are neither German nor French slaves. We are not the slaves of the spread or finance.”

His coalition partner and leader of the Five Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, echoed a similar sentiment, noting that apparently only goose-stepping EU cheerleaders are qualified to serve as minister of economy.

None of those who in their lives have been critical of the EU or of euro, can be a good fit for Minister of Economy,” Di Maio said in an emotional live stream video on Sunday night.

This is not free democracy. I have always esteemed President Mattarella, but this choice is simply incomprehensible to me,” he said.

Veneto’s governor and former Minister of Agriculture, Luca Zaia, also slammed Mattarella’s decision to block the new government as “a pretext to stop the wind of change that was identified during the elections.”


No comments:

Post a Comment