The Italian general elections will become clearer only after 25 January when the parties, the party lists and the manifestos (such as they are) will have been published. Until then almost any guess at what is going to happen is wild.
There are at least five potential leaders one of whom (Berlusconi) is pretending to offer yet another politician as potential prime minister so that he could do a deal with the Northern Leagues - they get Lombardy in return for forgiving and forgetting the 13-month support given to the Monti administration by Berlusconi's own party (in return for what is not clear even now). There are a variety of Left, Lefter, and Beyond the Pale (actually most of the Left in Italy falls into the last category) candidate prime ministers. Then there is the current prime minister, Mario Monti, watching the spread rising again and the extremists of Left and Right wrecking the efforts of the last year and a bit.
The polls are reporting impossible returns: that 50% of the electorate will not vote; that the Democratic Party has 40% of the vote; that Berlusconi is at almost 30% with his re-alliance with the Northern Leagues; that Monti has anything from 12% to 22%. It can't all be true. Of course there won't be 50% of the electorate missing - they're just refusing to say till they know their best advantage (and many are probably shifty about saying 'Berlusconi'.) Others have red lines. Nothing will induce them to vote for Bersani and his repellent communist and trade union associates (a telling cartoon in radical left Il Fatto showed an otherwise naked Bersani hiding his nasty nature under a bedraggled Democratic Party banner). Equally nothing will induce some otherwise Monti voters to vote for former Fascist Party members or for Christian Democrat retreads.
The media is its partisan self with articles ranging from high-brow pretence to fact-based analysis, to scurrilous attacks on the motivation and behaviour of candidates and parties. Angels current wild stab in the dark is that Monti will take the Senate, and that the Lower House will degenerate into a violent and unforgiving brawl between Berlusconi populist self-seekers, and Bersani's Democratic party leftist extremists.
President Napolitano has some very fine political finessing to do over who gets first dibs at forming an administration, and who gets second go when votes of confidence are not achieved in one House or the other.
Charles Travis did not like John Searle's book
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