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Tilting at Windmills

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April 10, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

49.7-49.8 NATION....And here I thought we had close elections:

Italy's centre-left opposition has won a narrow victory in the lower house of parliament, official results say.

It won 49.8% of the vote against 49.7% for the centre-right, according to interior ministry figures.

The centre-left coalition is also projecting that it will win a one-seat majority in the upper house.

Kevin Drum 11:54 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (29)

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If Iran decides not to go nuclear, will people start proclaiming the great brinksmanship G.W. played? That he played chicken a little better and won?

Posted by: KC on April 10, 2006 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

And here I thought we had close elections

And that's with an 84% turn-out rate.

Posted by: enozinho on April 10, 2006 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

the Peruvian election is even closer - the race between 2nd and 3rd (i.e. who gets into the second round) is well under 1% of the vote with 80+% of the vote counted.

Posted by: He Hate Me on April 11, 2006 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Come dite 'John Ellis' o 'Fox News' in italiano?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on April 11, 2006 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Mandate! Spend that political capital!

Posted by: shortstop on April 11, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

It's the usual culprit, electronic voting, the salvation of crooked politicians world-wide.
Critics also pointed out that the son of a cabinet minister is a partner in a
company that was hired as a consultant by the firm running the electronic procedure.
Issues of conflict of interest have often hovered over Berlusconi, who controls 90 percent of the Italian television market.
The perception has been revived in connection with how the contracts to run the electronic vote tallies were awarded.
The main contract was awarded without a public tender to Telecom Italia, the nation's dominant telecommunications company and the former government monopoly.
It hired the consulting firm Accenture to do some of the work. Gianmario Pisanu, a partner at Accenture, is the son of the interior minister.
Telecom Italia declined to comment on how Accenture was picked. A spokeswomen for the consulting company declined to comment on the contract. She did say, however, that Pisanu would have no role in work connected to the vote tallies.

Posted by: Mike on April 11, 2006 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Al on April 11, 2006 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

I don't have a horse in this race but I am extremely happy at the outcome because it will piss-off at least one of the boys at the Corner of Idiots.

Posted by: lib on April 11, 2006 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

Does this mean Berlusconi can now be arrested? Hasn't he had immunity because of his position up to now?

Posted by: hopeless pedant on April 11, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

Berlusconi may still evade prosecution, though reversing his special laws that protext his personal wealth is probably the only things that all parties in the centre-left can agree on.

There are more than a dozen parties in the election. All over Italy the ballots have been posted as huge banners on temproary billboards. There must have been 100 names to choose from.

The nature of Italian parliamentary politics makes a coherent rule by either of the two coalitions unlikely. A defection by a single party would collapse any initiative.

I dont know. If an election like this cant rid the country of such an obvious blowhard crook, I dont know what could. In his last interview Berlusconi argued that Italians gained two years' life expectancy during his administration, so that voting for him was the best way that individual Italians could live to be 100.

Posted by: troglodyte on April 11, 2006 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

Why is this odd? the sad thing is that people do not take this type of political split to the next level: WHY? Why does this happen? to me, it's a bit like flipping a coin. Chances are, you get heads 50% of the time when both sides are essentially the same. In politics, both the so-called left (meaning big government and socialism) and the so-called right (meaning big government and capitalism) are not that different from one another in that the choice often comes down to whom I prefer less, rather than who do I think will do a good job. In country after country, the two main sides of the aisle are getting closer and closer together. neither side offers that much better over the other. And, thus, we get close elections. US, German, now Italian. And in countries where the different parties truly are different, we get civil war, essentially. Which would you rather have? dictatorship by the grey suits, or by the masses in the streets?

Posted by: Chris on April 11, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

What makes it even more "shocking" is that Italian election law automatically gives the coalition that wins the plurality of the vote 55% of the seats in the lower house to make governing easy. This means Prodi will have a solid majority despite only winning by a one-tenth of one-percent.

Posted by: hedgehog on April 11, 2006 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Chris on April 11, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Ah yes. I recall the whole Nader argument that Gore was essentially the same as Bush. Good call on that one.

Posted by: gq on April 11, 2006 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

gq: I can't tell if the strong odor of sarcasm filling my brain is real, or imaginary. Either way, good post on your part!

Posted by: Chris on April 11, 2006 at 1:23 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, the election is even closer than what Kevin implies. The 49.7% and 49.8% are rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent.

The Chicago Tribune has the final tally at 49.73% for center-right and 49.79% for center-left...a difference of six one-hundredths of a a percent. Now THAT is close.

Posted by: Ghebs on April 11, 2006 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

At least someone's got a mandate!

Posted by: Alex on April 11, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

?Page tools
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Cite / link

mandate (mndt)
1. An authoritative command or instruction.
2. A command or an authorization given by a political electorate to its representative.
a. A commission from the League of Nations authorizing a member nation to administer a territory.
b. A region under such administration.
4. Law
a. An order issued by a superior court or an official to a lower court.
b. A contract by which one party agrees to perform services for another without payment.
tr.v. mandated, mandating, mandates
1. To assign (a colony or territory) to a specified nation under a mandate.
2. To make mandatory, as by law; decree or require: mandated desegregation of public schools.


[Latin mandtum, from neuter past participle of mandre, to order; see man-2 in Indo-European roots.]


mandator n.

Posted by: Chris on April 11, 2006 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Chris on April 11, 2006 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

Ah yes. I recall the whole Nader argument that Gore was essentially the same as Bush. Good call on that one.

Posted by: gq on April 11, 2006 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Not to worry - Berlusconi placed a transatlantic phone call to Antonin Scalia. Scalia herded the US Supreme Court onto the next plane to Rome; they will announce that they have settled the election in Berlusconi's favor later this morning.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on April 11, 2006 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

Jesus, this is depressing ....

Silvio "Don Coglioni" Berlusconi is the only politician on the world stage who's capable of making Bush look less than perfectly brain damaged. I have a good friend in Italy and we talk daily; this is going to be hugely depressing for her as we sort through the Florida-like fallout here ...

Right now, Prodi's holding on to the narrowest lead in the Camera (lower house), but Berlusconi has a one-seat majority in the Senate. The margin there is even more razor-thin: less than 50k votes ...

Everything's riding on the expats ... Expats tend as a rule to go right, but Prodi's holding on to a lead in the count and projects a 1-seat victory. Expats might be conservative -- but the opposition to Berlusconi also come from the business community. And many expats might simply be tired of being humiliated every time that high heel-wearing, perma-tanned buffoon opens his pasta hole ...

Whoever wins, it's going to be a massive mess. Italy's been whipsawed by globalization especially hard, because of its mix of mom 'n' pop small businesses, smokestack industries, agriculture and textiles. Prodi's coalition is also even more unweildly than Berlusconi's, with a mixture of centrist Catholics, Greens and re- (and unre-) constructed Communists.

But because the little crypto-fascist buffoon so relentlessly made this election into a referendum on his personality rather then the issues, then Italy needs to kill him by that sword. I totally agree with The Guardian -- he's the most dangerous man in Europe, an heir to the Fascist tradition, and he needs to be exorcised from the Zeitgeist. Imagime Rupert Murdoch with electoral ambitions ...

The only thing I want to see right now is a clear loss in both chambers -- I don't care by how few votes.

And yes -- I'm also disturbed by the all-too-real possibility of voter fraud with the new e-voting machines. WTF kept their vote counts from coming in so late?


Posted by: rmck1 on April 11, 2006 at 4:17 AM | PERMALINK

49.8% of the vote for centre-left against 49.7% for the centre-right

Italy sounds pretty centre-ist to me.

Posted by: Lurker42 on April 11, 2006 at 7:23 AM | PERMALINK


Well ... understand that this is parliamentary coalition politics -- and each "center" coalition is made up of several dozen smaller parties. The center-rightists have Fascists (Alliance Nazionale) and xenophobes (Northern League), the center-left has two flavors of "former" Communists, plus the main center-left party (Democrats of the Left) was also formerly a Communist party. Not to mention the Greens, two flavors of Catholic parties (one on each side), various other parties ...

Italy is rather a schizophrenic country. It's both socially conservative (all those Catholics) and exquisitely cosmopolitan. The industrial, urbanized North is also quite culturally different than the agrarian South (hence the Northern League, which wants to seccede and ditch the alleged welfare freeloaders of the South).

It's not like you can easily separate these tendencies though -- even in individuals, let alone neatly by region. No country better illustrates what sociologists have called the real culture / ideal culture dichotomy. Italians have an image of themselves that they cherish (the "bella figura" is very important -- hence the success of an oaf like Berlusconi who nonetheless knew how to play to the cameras) -- but that image is often at stark odds with reality.


Posted by: rmck1 on April 11, 2006 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

Italy sounds pretty centre-ist to me.

Yes, it would to anyone who reacts solely to labels--and has zero idea what coalitions are or who makes them up.

Posted by: shortstop on April 11, 2006 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Prodi Edges Closer to Victory in Italian Elections

Published: April 11, 2006

ROME, April 11 After a long night of uncertainty, Romano Prodi
appeared today to have won the Italian elections, though supporters of
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the whisker-thin margin demanded
a recount.

Mr. Berlusconi, 69, who waged a bitter battle to maintain power, did
not concede defeat, nor even appear on television. "Such a tiny
difference necessitates a scrupulous checking of the counting," his
spokesman, Paolo Buonauiti, told reporters early this morning.

But the nation's president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, sent a message that
he would like these bitterly contested elections whose results were
unclear throughout the night over and certain. He issued a statement
saying that the voting was "orderly and correct."

After late results gave Mr. Prodi four of the six seats in the Senate
whose fate had been unclear, he appeared in central Rome early this
afternoon to claim a victory in both houses of Parliament. If the
results are uncontested, Mr. Prodi, a 66-year-old economist and former
prime minister, could form a government, though with a thin margin
that could make governing difficult.

"The situation is complex and difficult," he told reporters. "And now
we will work for our program together with the coalition and together
with all Italians, including those who did not vote for us."

He rejected the idea - trumpeted in huge post-election headlines -
that Italy was now a country divided, having voted for center-left and
center-right in almost equal numbers.

"We are not a country split in two," he said. "Rather there is a
little difference in the votes, and then there is the image of a
country that is split because we campaigned without acknowledging each

"In any case, Italy's democracy is a mature democracy," he said.

The near final results showed that Mr. Prodi and his allies won 158
votes to 156 for Mr. Berlusconi's center-right coalition in the
Senate. In the lower chamber of Parliament, the margin in votes was
tight: 49.8 percent of the votes for Mr. Prodi, and 49.7 percent for
Mr. Berlusconi.

By Italian elections law, changed last year by Mr. Berlusconi's
government, the winner in the lower chamber automatically receives 340
of 630 seats, with 277 going to the runners' up.


Okay, by a gnat's red cunthair -- BUT BERLUSCONI LOST !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh, my friend is going to be so happy ...


Posted by: rmck1 on April 11, 2006 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

This is actually pretty important to the US for a few reasons of analogy and some other possibilities.

1) Berlosconi of course is another example of a well funded right wing political machine with tons of media - TV. Very analogous to the US right wing machine.

2) Another national leader who's an international embarrassment. One weird thing is the predictions that the overseas Italians would vote for Berlosconi's right wing parties. Not likely, given that they aren't exposed to the Berlosconi media and don't like getting laughed at.

3) The Italians forged the Niger documents - and they have not turned over anything to the US. If Prodi shakes those loose to embarrass Berlosconi and tie him closer to Bush. That could be another push to the Plame story.

And of course, one fewer ally to Blair and Bush.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on April 11, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

God, I am so happy I won't have to see that moron Berlusconi's face anymore. Well, let's hope, at least...

Posted by: kokblok on April 11, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

It was probably a center-left landslide,but who controls tabulating the results? Also look for terrorism to increase in Italy,the CIA doesn't leftist governments.Readers,please inform your -self concering "Operation Gladio"

Posted by: proudleftists on April 11, 2006 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Especially with such a narrow majority, Prodi won't begin to solve the nation's problems. But perhaps he can wrest control of the TV screen back from its elected dictator before the next election and remove the "quasi-" from "democracy" in Italy.

Posted by: Whew on April 11, 2006 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK



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