Europe waits for Italy elections

 
Silvio Berlusconi posters

Related Stories

There was a time when Italian elections were frequent and forgettable. Prime ministers were discarded like last season's clothes.

All of that has changed. What happens in Italy affects the rest of Europe. Campaigning ends on Friday. The result could rattle the eurozone and remind the markets of how little has been settled in the continent's real economies.

The favourite to win is an ex-Communist from the centre left, Pier Luigi Bersani. He is decidedly Mr Normal.

There is nothing extravagant or flamboyant about him. There are no sharp suits. He likes the occasional cigar but he is almost an anti-candidate conducting a low-key conversation with Italy.

When I spoke to him in Naples he sounded a little like Francois Hollande. "I intend to convince Europe," Mr Bersani told me, "that austerity alone is not enough."

He does not believe that the current European policy - the Berlin-Brussels austerity strategy - is correct. He says it needs to be adjusted to push for investment and jobs.

He is committed to reducing the deficit and to continuing with reforms begun under current Prime Minister Mario Monti. He spoke about making the relationship between workers and companies more efficient - code for further freeing up the labour market.

There is no big plan, however, to address Italy's main problem - little or no growth for the past decade.

Grillo wild card

Like other politicians he looks to Europe to find elusive growth. With a slight twinkle in his eye he tells me he believes in the United States of Europe.

The question is whether he will be able to put together a coalition which is credible and long-lasting. And that is unclear.

The wild card in this campaign is Beppe Grillo, a comedian who rages against the political establishment. He has struck a chord with his rants against the corrupt.

His rallies have been so well attended that he has drawn fire from all the other candidates. Mr Berlusconi sees him as a threat to democracy. Mr Bersani warns that he could put Italy at risk in a similar way to Greece.

It is possible that the wild-haired Mr Grillo might get more than 20% of the vote. If that happens he will be a power broker - he is promising a referendum on the euro and believes the current austerity measures are ruining Italy. He has refused to answer whether he would play king-maker and what conditions he might insist on.

A strong vote for Mr Grillo will send a message to Europe that established politicians are at risk at a time of recession and high unemployment.

Monti's struggles

Brussels and Berlin would like to see Mr Bersani form an alliance with Mario Monti as part of a governing coalition.

The prime minister, who took over after Mr Berlusconi's fall in 2011, has proved an awkward candidate. Mr Bersani, speaking in Naples, had a swipe at him saying he never goes onto the streets to meet people, although he did not rule out including him in a future government.

Mr Monti's problem is that he struggles to convince voters he is on the side of ordinary Italians. A partnership with Mr Bersani would be difficult but the markets might prefer such an arrangement to the alternatives.

One theme in this campaign has been Germany. At rally after rally the Germans get a mention. Mr Berlusconi warns against a German Europe. So do some of the socialists.

Mr Monti claimed Angela Merkel did not want a centre-left victory, only for Berlin to insist she had not expressed a preference. Some German politicians have warned against a Berlusconi victory. The interference is widely resented in Italy.

There is a dangerous, unpredictable mood in Italy and the election result remains uncertain.

Mr Bersani told me the people were "disappointed, disillusioned and angry". He said the illusions and fairy tales of the right had been stripped away. Perhaps. There is here the feel of a vacuum, of a country which might need a second election relatively soon.

The fear is of Greek-style paralysis in the euro-zone's third largest economy.

 
Gavin Hewitt Article written by Gavin Hewitt Gavin Hewitt Europe editor

UK caught up in new EU budget row

UK politicians react angrily to news that a £1.7bn (€2.1bn) surcharge will have to be paid to the EU by 1 December, while France and Germany get a rebate.

Read full article

More on This Story

Related Stories

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 74.

    69 DM

    "QOT, you forget, after WW2 Germany entered the EU as a basket case"


    "At the founding of the European Common Market in 1957 Germany's economic growth stood in contrast to the struggling conditions at the time in the United Kingdom"
    (Wirtschaftswunder, Wiki)

    It alway amazes me that people are so willing to discuss a subject they know nothing about.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 73.

    #70 tonep

    --borrowed theories- and conclusions.

    ..every society and country can ´screw things up´ so badly that it goes on the ´dole´or on the streets begging.

    --the ability to print money is of little security to the individual sufferer.

    --ask Sieuarlu or look at the way the UK is going.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 72.

    Italy is a case in point that the EU program to restructure its economies and put them on a path to sustainable growth isn't working.Unless and until Europe starts to live like they do in the BRICS countries which are its real peers it will continue to decline.Instead it imagines itself as some superior society better than the rest and deserving pay far out of proportion to its real worth.Wrong!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 71.

    #69 dmr

    "By the time it bails out most of the EZ, it too will leave as one"

    -- Then you can both go hand-in hand to the Chinese -- for work.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 70.

    Functional single currencies require not only a convergence of productivity but internal fiscal transfers. Scotland and England have virtually identical productivity, both the UK and US spread government spending around their regions to compensate for weakness. Both have a lender of last resort. Eurozone has none of this, and without it will ultimately fail.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 69.

    QOT, you forget, after WW2 Germany entered the EU as a basket case.
    By the time it bails out most of the EZ, it too will leave as one

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 68.

    #65 Cordero

    -- Before Thatcher and Regan the banking rules were different.

    -- The introduction of the Euro and the AAA ratings for Spain, Portugal (especially Greece) was a big mistake --but the first ´taste´of wealth after Salazar and Franco.

    --that should have been foreseen- but wasn´t.

    #66 dmr

    -- The UK entered the EEC as a basket case--and will leave as one ?

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 67.

    Italians forgot the golden rule along with a lot of Europe's other basket cases. The golden rule is...he who has the gold makes the rule and the one with all the gold is Germany.If you don't play ball with Germany they'll just leave and take the ball with them. No more bailouts.You have to wonder when ordinary Germans will throw their give-it-all-away govenment out.When the last Euro is spent...

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 66.

    QOT, My feelings have been clear for a long time.
    A free sovereign UK which is happy to share a free trade zone with the rest of Europe.
    If the rest wish to be run by a Brussels led empire bereft of democracy, that's their choice, but I want none of it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 65.

    63 quietoak Very true, British banks have caused lots of problems and noweher more so than the UK itself. However this is hardly some rare British born disease - just ask the Spanish about their banks, especially the cajas, or maybe banks in other countries like Lansbanki or Fortis to name but two. Greed is not a British monopoly.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 64.

    #62 dmr
    "If the UK is such a basket case and such a drag on the EU, why so keen to keep us in?"

    He said-- (Spiegel)

    " ´More Europe´in Germany does not mean a German Europe --but a European Germany´

    -- a European UK is OK for you ?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 63.

    #60 Cordero

    " He is merely stating the obvious. Nothing has been settled regarding the real problems faced by the eurozone economy"

    --the obvious is --

    Nothing has been settled regarding the real problems faced by the European economy.

    --and the UK has played no minor role in its demise as I pointed out in #55

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 62.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/16/joachim-gauck-president-east-germany
    German president very keen for UK to stay in Europe, even says he wants English to be the language of the EU.
    If the UK is such a basket case and such a drag on the EU, why so keen to keep us in?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 61.

    #59 tonep

    "...none of it relevant, "

    "Barroso, van Rompuy, Schulz....its enough to make you weep."

    --Direct those criticisms at tonep, kane and Andzerj

    -- and at no one else.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 60.

    58 quietoak... In what way does "and remind the markets of how little has been settled in the continent's real economies" constitute a comparison between Italy and the UK or Gavin saying that somehow the UK is better than Italy? He is merely stating the obvious. Nothing has been settled regarding the real problems faced by the eurozone economy. Most Europeans think a lot more needs to be done.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 59.

    57 cordero

    "He has said nothing about the UK or made any comments comparing Italy to the UK. I fail to see the point of your comments."

    Saville Row, RBS, UK deficits, Brits and alcohol...none of it relevant, and not a word on Italy. Same old same old.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 58.

    #57 Cordero

    "He has said nothing about the UK or made any comments comparing Italy to the UK. I fail to see the point of your comments."

    Read #47 and #49

    GAVIN-- said--

    "and remind the markets of how little has been settled in the continent's real economies."

    -- With that phrase -- he lost a ´containment´--of his argument !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 57.

    quietoak... Gavin is talking about the Italian election. Not the UK economy. He has said nothing about the UK or made any comments comparing Italy to the UK. I fail to see the point of your comments.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 56.

    #54 kane

    "The comedian is an apt contender, I hope he does well if only to highlight the absurdity of this union."

    - Especially if he wears a Saville Row suit ?

    --every nation has their comedians --when dressed up for the show.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 55.

    #43 tonep

    "Barroso, van Rompuy, Schulz....its enough to make you weep."

    --all the way to the bank-- RBS et al. ?

 

Page 7 of 10

 

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.