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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Another blunder for Monti

As competent as he is, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has really stepped in it this week. Only one day after Der Spiegel published his pretty unfortunate statement that eurozone governments should not be "completely bound by the decisions of their parliaments", the WSJ yesterday published excerpts from an interview with Monti from last month. In the interview, Monti suggested that, if Silvio Berlusconi and his government were still in power,
Italy's spreads would now be at 1,200 or something. 
Ouch!

He might be right, but still not smart politics. Remember, although Monti leads a technocrat-only government (and, indeed, is an unelected technocrat himself), he has to rely on parliamentary support to pass the structural reforms Italy needs so badly.

Berlusconi's party still holds the highest number of seats in both chambers of the Italian parliament. Therefore, if Berlusconi's MPs and senators were to withdraw their support, Monti and his cabinet would have no alternative but to quit. So Monti should probably choose his words more carefully.

Berlusconi's party instantly retaliated, and the result was the government failing to obtain a majority during one of the votes in the lower house yesterday over a new €26bn savings package. It was mainly a symbolic move (the specific vote was on a procedural act) and the package was eventually approved, but it was a reminder of the important role still played by Berlusconi's lot.

The leader of Berlusconi's senators, Maurizio Gasparri (in the picture), said,
Monti should display a more balanced and respectful behaviour, as the [Italian] parliament is holding one vote of confidence after the other. Sooner or later, someone may grow tired.
So for the second time in less than 24 hours, Monti was forced to apologise (although his office prefers using the word 'clarify'). He called Berlusconi and told him he was "sorry" because that specific sentence had been "extrapolated" from a longer conversation and taken out of context.

Apologies accepted, it seems. But the episode is another reminder of how for Italy the main risk remains political.

2 comments:

Rik said...

Furthermore the rescue ideas for Italy assume an at least 10 year period to bring back to normal levels. Effectively closer to 20.
Gets very little attention weird imho. You likely have a few Italian style socialist PMs in that time and all efforts are likley going out ogf the window.

Knowing that the average Italian cabinet lasted around 1 year, good to point the markets that during that 'debt reduction-period' all kinds of strange birds could come along eg those of the BungaBunga brand.

Idris Francis said...

Yet another example of a politician who still does not undertand - as none of ours do - that saying "my words were taken out of context" or "my words were misunderstood" when the words and their meaning were plain and undeniable, makes them seem shifty and evasive. But then again, they are!

I had the same problem - and the same reply - from Stephen Ladyman in 2006 when he was Roads Minister and spoke on Radio 4 immediately after I had explained from Strasbourg's ECHR why I had filed my application about the right to silence being breached by speed camera law demanding that drivers identify themselves.

Ladyman said (I have a transcript) that "With respect to Mr. Francis, he doesn't care about the right to silence, he just wishes to drive around at high speed killing people, without getting caught".

It goes without saying of course that he was wrong about me, but he was also wrong about the law - it is only those who commit "modest" driving offences who loose the right to silence - those who kill and maim or do anthing that might lead to a prison sentence retain the right to say, in the words of a Judge 100 years ago "You suspect me of a crime but it is up to you to prove it, not up to me to convict myself out of my own mouth" As of course do murderers, rapiss, terrorists and everyone else except the driver.

Naturally Ladyman refused to apologise, other than if his words had been misunderstood!