As Thousands Of Italians March Against Austerity On "No Monti Day", Berlusconi Threatens To Scuttle Monti Government
First, it was Greece who failed to stick with the "do not rock the boat until the US election" script so meticulously crafted by Tim Geithner, and now it is Italy's turn as Europe threatens to come unhinged precisely in the week when complete peace and quiet is needed to avoid deflecting attention from the peak season of the US presidential theater. As Reuters reports, "Tens of thousands of people marched through Rome in a "No Monti Day" on Saturday, some throwing eggs and spraying graffiti to protest against austerity measures introduced by Prime Minister Mario Monti's government. Appointed in November when Italy risked being sucked into the euro zone debt crisis, Monti has pushed through painful austerity measures to cut the country's massive debt, including tax hikes, spending cuts and a pension overhaul. "We are here against Monti and his politics, the same politics as all over Europe, that brought Greece to its knees and that are destroying half of Europe, public schools, health care," said demonstrator Giorgio Cremaschi... In another demonstration in northern Italy, a small group of protesters scuffled with police near where Monti was addressing a rally on the theme of family values."
So who gets to capitalize on the latest bout of surging discontent with the Goldman appointed technocrat? Why the same man who yesterday was sentenced to several years in jail (a sentence that will be never carried out of course), Silvio Berlusconi, and whom the ECB singlehandedly took down nearly a year ago, when it sent Italian bond yields to record highs: "The center-right bloc will decide "in the next few days" whether to withdraw confidence for Prime Minister Mario Monti in parliament or support him until elections in April, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Saturday. Monti's government of non-elected technocrats is backed by the center-left, the center and the center-right. It would have to resign if it lost the support of the entire center-right."
In other words, the man that many left for politically dead in the always entertaining Italian political scene, is about to come back with a stunning vengeance, and may even reclaim the throne that Goldman repossessed a year earlier.
"We have to recognize the fact that the initiative of this government is a continuation of a spiral of recession for our economy," Berlusconi told a news conference in northern Italy a day after he was convicted and sentenced to four years for tax fraud related to his Mediaset media empire.
"Together with my collaborators we will decide in the next few days whether it is better to immediately withdraw our confidence in this government or keep it, given the elections that are scheduled," he said.
The Monti government of non-elected technocrats is supported by the centre-left, the centre-right and the centre. It would lose its majority and have to resign if the entire centre-right, including Berlusconi's PDL party, withdrew support.
Unemployment in Italy has risen to 10.7 percent, its highest level since monthly records began in 2004, and unions are locked in disputes with companies over plant closures and layoffs.
Berlusconi, a 76-year-old billionaire media magnate, gave no precise timing for when the decision on whether to keep supporting Monti or not would be made. An indication of the centre-right's strength will come on Sunday when Sicilians go to the polls to elect a new regional government.
Always one to have an immaculate sense of the public's pulse of discontent (if not so much contentment), Berlusconi continued:
Berlusconi also condemned the Monti government for following what he called the "hegemonistic" economic policies of Germany and accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy of "trying to assassinate my international political credibility" when he was prime minister.
Berlusconi was convicted on Friday of inflating prices paid for television rights via offshore companies and skimming off money to create illegal slush funds.
The court imposed a five-year ban on running for political office but since the sentence does not come into effect until all appeals are exhausted, Berlusconi can run for parliament in the next national elections in April.
In an interview earlier on Saturday he had suggested that he might not leave front-line politics as expected, although he later confirmed that he would not be a candidate for prime minister. He did not rule out running for parliament.
The former prime minister, who was convicted three times during the 1990s in the first degree before being cleared by higher courts, has the right to appeal the ruling two more times before the sentence becomes definitive.
He has often accused magistrates of waging a political war against him. "Ours is not a democracy but a dictatorship of the magistrature," he said, listing the amount of time and money he has had to spend to defend himself in trials he says are all based on unfounded accusations.
Then again, this is the same man who said he feels "obliged to stay in politics to reform Italy's justice system" the day after his conviction:
He announced what sounded like a political platform to undo many of Monti's reforms. And he warned that his People of Freedom party would be meeting in the coming days to decide whether to withdraw support from Monti's government and force early elections.
He said it would do so to end the "recessive spiral" that Monti's reforms had brought about.
The rambling speech got personal at times, such as when he denounced a now-famous smirk about him shared by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, which he termed an "attempted assassination of my international credibility."
Berlusconi had wavered about his political future in the year since he was forced from office amid sex scandals and his inability to reassure financial markets that he could push through the economic reforms needed to ward off a debt crisis.
At the end of the day, for better or worse, it seems that the Italian people may once again be allowed to chose their elected leaders, which regardless of the outcome, is what democracy is truly about, and we are confident that even with Berlusconi back on top, the local electorate would be happier than being controlled by a proxy muppet of the world's most insidious investment banks-cum-hedge funds, whose only goal has always been a simple one: the enrich its shareholders, its partners, and the member of the global ruling oligarchy even more at the expense of the disappearing middle class.
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