After a two year sojourn in a wilderness of mansions, yachts and the other miseries of the international billionaire, Silvio Berlusconi will make a triumphant return as Prime Minister — and ringmaster — of the Italian Republic following his mid-April win over Walter Veltroni’s and the parties of the left.
At the same time — and perhaps even more significantly — the sole remaining communist members of Italy’s Parliament lost their seats. It is significant to this year’s Italian politics but also a symbolic milestone for the Western nation most affected by the pernicious influence of the hard left in all its forms in the 63 years since World War II.
Berlusconi’s new Center-Right People of Freedom Coalition received 47% of the vote, with Veltroni’s new Center-Left Democratic Party Coalition taking 38% of the vote. Berlusconi will have a 101 seat majority in the Chamber of Deputies, Italy’s lower House, and 38 more seats than the opposition in the Senate.
There were communists in the outgoing government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi, but apparently they made life difficult for their coalition partners. The former Minister of Health, Livia Turco, said the communists had themselves to blame for their defeat. “You can’t be in government and in opposition at the same time,” she said. “That was a mistake and the election results showed that clearly,” Veltroni having excluded the communists from his Coalition list.
The new Chamber of Deputies will only have six parties instead of 26 as in the previous parliament. The communists, currently in the guise of the Communist Refoundation Party, formed the Rainbow Left Coalition with the Greens (and others) with hopes of capturing six to eight percent of the vote. But the Coalition received only three percent — down from 10 percent for essentially the same Parties in the 2006 election — and not enough to capture any seats in Parliament (given Italy’s version of a proportional representation system, which requires a minimum of eight percent of the vote to gain a seat).
According to the Party, “It is a heavy defeat for the left which, for the first time in the history of the Republic will not have any seats in Parliament, after the victory of a populist and xenophobic right.”
This spoken by the last communists standing in Western politics.
Italian politics are, as ever, complex, with Veltroni’s Coalition including the “Democrats of the Left,” “Democracy is Freedom,” the “Southern Democratic Party,” the “Sardinia Project” and the deathless “Middle-of-the-Road Italy” Party.
The failure of the communists’ coalition to achieve the threshold eight percent may have had a number of causes linked to the particulars of this election, the personalities involved or even just the mechanics of shifting allegiances among smaller parties. At the same time, the communists’ disappearance from Parliament is part of a larger trend that extends back into the late 1980s and early 1990s and may be a small step forward in Italy’s long-overdue political maturation.
The Communists may finally have used up the credulity, good will and the tolerance for the quixotic so characteristic of Italians’ approach to their civic life of law and government. A full generation has matured since the political earthquakes of the 1960s yielded what was then still fresh and appealed to the youth culture of the time: a uniquely European spawn of Marxism that went by the name of Eurocommunism. A characteristic typical extreme left fraud on reason and decency, Eurocommunism was totalitarianism with a supposed human face that maintained a plausible appeal in Western Europe throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.
With an age-old mistrust of poor and increasingly discredited governments of the Center and Right, the seeming rationality of communism became especially attractive to a Latin electorate prone to the radical and utopian.
In Italy, the largely monolithic Communist Party of Italy at that time regularly won a third of all votes, with a high water mark of 34.4% in 1976.
But the fever dream of Eurocommunism was shattered by the reality of what existed behind the Berlin Wall, and in a process that has continued up until the recent election, the increasingly discredited communists split and re-formed and split again into increasingly marginal and impotent fragments.
Now a hitherto obscure political player, the Communist Refoundation Party, came forward to take final bows for a 60 year communist presence in Parliament. May it make a permanent disappear from the life of Italian politics and from the lives of that wonderful people.
The promise of an earnest communist youth marching into the future, tractor by his side, production figures as a song in his heart, no longer appeals to a country that is largely middle class and up to its satellite dishes in the modern curse and blessing of material wealth and cynicism.
Perhaps the waning of the Communist temptation finally hints at something good for an Italy that surely deserves better than either Berlusconi or the communists. Perhaps the last commie standing, whatever his party is called, will be memorialized by an appearance on Italian Celebrity Big Brother — perhaps inevitably on one of President Berlusconi’s television stations.