Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Prodi out?

In a surprise move today, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi handed in his resignation. Prodi — whose center-left coalition only recently took over the Italian government from his corrupt right-leaning predecessor Silvio Berlusconi — has been in hot water lately over a series of issues many politicians in US-allied countries are well acquainted with: Afghanistan, and the American 'war on terror' in general — including plans for enlargement of US military base there, which seems hegemonious at best. WWII and the Cold War are over; what is the need for a foreign military to be occupying Italy, in principle or strategy? Italian military policy has been a problem in the already problem-riddled Italian political system, notorious for its murkiness, corruption, and inefficiency (though I am open to views from those within Italy!).

President Giorgio Napolitano is now expected to hold talks with political leaders before reaching a decision.

He could accept the resignation or ask Mr Prodi to stay in power.

In the vote, several of Mr Prodi's coalition partners opposed troop deployments in Afghanistan and plans to expand a US airbase in northern Italy.

But the coalition's leader in the lower house of parliament, Dario Franceschini, said the main parties in the coalition would continue to back Mr Prodi.
The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Rome says it is not a foregone conclusion that the government will fall.

Mr Napolitano has several options, of which dissolving parliament and calling new elections is the most radical.

He could also ask Mr Prodi, who took office 10 months ago with a wafer-thin parliamentary majority, to test his support with a confidence vote, ask him to form a new government, choose a different prime minister from the ruling coalition or appoint a government of technocrats.
The twin issues of the continued funding of troop deployment in Afghanistan, where Italy has some 1,900 soldiers, and the expansion of a US airbase in the north-eastern city of Vicenza have sparked fierce debate in Italy.

Last week, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Vicenza in protest at the plans.

They were approved by Mr Prodi's predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi is a media mogul and dirty politician currently suspected of a string of criminal offenses. He has used his mass media power to attempt a political monopoly and has a poor track record, in my opinion, as a politician of any kind in Italy.

For the sake of stability, the government should not resign. Whatever follows such an action is much worse than the trouble currently brewing. From the looks of it the government has yet to fall apart, and, considering Italy's recent political history, any action more radical than appointing a new prime minister from the ruling party or holding a confidence vote would be too rash. Such an action has the potential to move Italy into real political turmoil.

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