Most indications are that the most numerous faction in the coming parliament, with just over one third of the votes, will be the Common Good coalition, composed of the Democratic Party (the remains of the old Italian Communist Party), the Left Ecology Freedom movement of Nichi Vendola, which includes various paleocommunists, and some smaller forces. This coalition is led by Pier Luigi Bersani, a colorless bureaucrat. Ironically, despite its leftist rhetoric, the Common Good is the formation most likely to continue the austerity policies which are currently tearing Italy apart.
Coming in second with almost 30% should be the center-right coalition around the People of Freedom, the party of the irrepressible former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, joined by the Northern League of Umberto Bossi, a xenophobic group which also articulates the resentments of northern Italy against the south, the Mezzogiorno.
Another important leader is Giulio Tremonti, the former Minister of Economics and Finance. Berlusconi, a wealthy businessman and three-time prime minister, was most recently in power from 2008 to November 2011. Berlusconi’s fall had been prepared through a series of lurid revelations about his personal life, including an attack by the CIA document dump known as Wikileaks. Berlusconi’s second-place status represents a remarkable comeback, and the last polls show him closing on Bersani.
Third place with almost 20% is likely to belong to a new and unorthodox political formation, the Five Star Movement (5SM), where the dominant personality is the former Genoese comedian Beppe Grillo, a colorful and talented demagogue. The 5SM is anti-politician, anti-euro, anti-infrastructure, anti-tax, and anti-mainstream media. Like the GOP, they want to reduce the public debt, meaning they want deflation. Grillo proposes a guaranteed annual income for all Italians, a 30-hour work week, and a drastic reduction of energy consumption and of production. He demands free Wi-Fi for all. Without modern production, how can these benefits be provided?
Grillo wants to abort the infrastructure projects – like the new high-speed train tunnel between Turin and France and the bridge between Calabria and Sicily – upon which Italy’s economic future depends. He is long on petty bourgeois process reforms like term limits, media reform, corporate governance, and banning convicted felons from parliament, but short on defending the standard of living for working people. On a bizarre note, he has praised the British response to the 2008 banking crisis. As many as 100 members of the 5SM, many of them total political novices, and more than a few adventurers who have jumped on board Grillo’s bandwagon, may now enter parliament, with predictably destabilizing consequences. Grillo could be the vehicle for an Italian color revolution along the lines of Ukraine or Georgia.
In fourth place, with less than 10%, is expected to be the current prime minister of Italy, Mario Monti, a former eurocrat of the Brussels Commission who has led a brutal technocratic austerity regime since coming to power in November 2011 through a coup d’état sponsored by the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, and executed by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano with help from Mario Draghi at the European Central Bank.
Both Monti and Draghi are former employees of Goldman Sachs, the widely hated zombie bank. When Monti seized power, he was widely acclaimed as a savior and enjoyed an approval rating of 70%; his approval has now fallen to about 30%. Like Gorbachev, he is unpopular at home but remains the darling of foreign leaders. Even the London Financial Times is bearish on Monti, accusing him of starting his austerity regime when Italy was already in recession.
Among the also-rans are Civic Revolution of Antonio Ingroia, a merger of the Greens with Antonio Di Pietro’s anti-corruption forces left over from the “Clean Hands” movement of the early 1990s, which targeted politicians but did very little to attack the larger corruption of the Bank of Italy and the big banks.