Italy: Unstable coalition formed/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

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Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

After weeks of haggling following the inconclusive general election in February, the Italian political class finally succeeded in putting together a ‘grand coalition’ to keep its grip on the country – at least for the moment. Although the Democratic Party (PD) won the most votes by a whisker, it was the success of Beppe Grillo and his MoVimento 5 Stelle in coming second which had created a three-month political stalemate. Rather than face new elections and a possible defeat at the hands of Grillo, the nominally-left PD chose to form a coalition with Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing PDL and accept many of his lackeys inside the government.

The new Prime Minister is the PD’s Enrico Letta. A former president of the Christian Democratic Youth, Letta had a two-year spell as an MEP, and then replaced his uncle, Gianni Letta, as undersecretary to then Prime Minister Prodi in 2006. Ironically, Gianni Letta has been four times Berlusconi’s prime ministerial undersecretary and is now advising Goldman Sachs on business opportunities in Italy.

The ‘grand coalition’ was a last-minute deal Berlusconi had crafted. Even though the PD won the general election Berlusconi was able to impose his PDL’s programme on Letta. The abolition of the IMU, a mansion tax introduced by former Prime Minister Monti in 2012, was Berlusconi’s major promise during the election campaign and as such its repeal will be critical to the ‘grand coalition’s’ survival. A tax reform aimed at lowering rates for businesses and another on the payroll are in the pipeline. Last but not least, the elimination of public funding of political parties, a promise made by Grillo, will be agreed soon. This will delight media tycoon Berlusconi: as a billionaire he will have no problem paying for his PDL.

The promises made by the coalition parties will mean a fall in tax revenues of about £17bn which will satisfy the rich and powerful. Berlusconi’s masterstroke can be summarised as ‘killing two birds with one stone’ – controlling the government without leading it and creating the conditions for the implosion of the PD that has started with the resignation of its leader Pier Luigi Bersani.

Meanwhile, the media, be they the state-controlled RAI or Berlusconi’s networks, have been waging a campaign to discredit Grillo’s movement by casting doubts on whether its MPs are fit for the job. So far, the polls indicate that this strategy seems to be working. As for the left, the moment is not ripe yet but it has to strive to organise on a platform based on the defence of the working class and its interests.

Dario Chiaradonna