Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Ides of March

The Italian Constitution is not capable of responding to current political events.  President Napolitano cannot dissolve this newly elected Parliament because he is at the end of his term of office.   The constitutional provision that allowed President Napolitano to dissolve the last Parliament, because there was an overlap between  the end of the Parliamentary term and the end of the Presidency term, does not apply now; the terms of this Parliament and of the Presidency do not overlap and the 'white semester'  rule by  which an outgoing President cannot dissolve the Parliament in his last six months of office applies.

When the new Parliament meets on 15 March (a Friday  to make the auguries worse)  the stalemate will generate an impossible institutional and political conflict: the Senate will have almost zero chances of choosing a Speaker  but the timetable for the electoral process for the new President is inexorable.  The Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the Lower House are the second and third highest offices of the State after the Presidency and,  by 20 March,  these two are required to open consultations with the President on who to call on to form an administration.  As can be imagined, these negotiations are going to be difficult and drawn-out even if the Senate has managed to elect a Speaker.  But on 15 April the timetable for the procedures for the election of the new President opens, one month before Napolitano leaves office on 15 May.  It may well be that attempts are still being made to command confidence in both Houses by various coalitions and Leaders.  

The only clarity in the murk created by inadequacies  in the Constitution and, even more, created by the political results of the calling of an election  before the end of the term of the last Parliament, by an outgoing President acting on the strength of a constitutional quirk, is that it is this Parliament that must choose the new President.  And must do this after the current President has overtly politicized that office by his repeated manipulation of under-determined aspects of the Italian Constitution in the interests of his own political commitments and agenda.   From now on there will be no concurrence,  pretence, that the office of President is merely ceremonial and part of the dignity of the State.  Napolitano has changed that for ever. 

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