In last May’s administrative elections, and a national referendum that followed, tens of millions of Italians gave an unequivocal thumbs down to Silvio Berlusconi. So general and widespread was the feeling of triumph and hope that many believed an Italian “spring” was in the offing.
However so far there has been only increased misery and a mounting sense of helpless desperation. This was magnified dramatically by the money markets’ flight from Italian treasury bonds, revealing the stark truth about the Italian economy and its jerry-built financial system.
Under pressure from the Northern League’s Umberto Bossi and Roberto Maroni to regain lost public support, Berlusconi proposed a budget to axe large swathes of public services, health and education, which would cut taxes, protect and favour the commercial, artisanal and professional classes.
Berlusconi’s budget sharpened an already smouldering conflict with “superminister” of the economy, Giulio Tremonti, whose austerity programme has won him credit with the national and international bourgeoisie as being the only figure reliable enough to run the country.
Tremonti faced his boss down, and from that moment the credit the money markets had in the Berlusconi government slowly began to dry up.
The process was exacerbated by the revelations of several more scandals of widescale corruption involving government figures, judges and executives; an official report revealed that 89 of the deputies and senators in the Italian parliament are criminals, on remand or under invesigation, while a further nine have had their sentencing timed-out.
The bulk of the cases involve fraud, bribery and/or association with one or other of the mafia. The bulk of them belonged to the government. Facts further underlined by more data from the regional assembly of Sicily, where one in three of the 95 or so representatives were incriminated.
Right now there are at least two major criminal investigations against members of the regime — apart, from the three involving the boss himself!
The links between the business world, public admin, and judiciary in vast networks of corrupt association are redolent of both the “bribesville” scandal of the early 1990s which brought down the Christian Democratic governnent and the conspiracies of the powerful Masonic lodge of P2 in an earlier period.
Something of the same sorts of things are going on now, underlined by the fact that the new deal hammered out a few weeks ago in Brussels around Greece’s debt has failed to reassure the markets that the Berlusconi regime has a future and that the chronically stagnant economy is not heading for recession. Now another €48 billion worth of cuts has been announed — supposedly to restore balance to the public finances by 2014.
Meanwhile the interest the country is now paying on its debt — around 6% — instantly puts it in debt by another €20 billion, unsustainable if it were to continue for any appeciable lenth of time.
Now also comes news that Tremonti is himself at the centre of a growing scandal involving a fellow deputy and a business company offered favours.
The Italian ship is heading for the rocks.