What the Italian elections mean

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My blog entry on the Italian elections was written when it looked like there was a good chance that the center right would have a majority in the Senate and might still get a majority in the Chamber of Deputies.

Now the results show that the center left will have a supermajority in the Chamber (thanks to the electoral provision Silvio Berlusconi rammed through for the benefit of his center-right coalition) but will control the Senate by only a 158-to-156 margin, with 1 Independent. Since the Senate gets to vote on all legislation, that means the center left is likely to lose a vote of confidence there sooner or later—probably sooner. That could easily lead to new elections, perhaps as early as this fall (Italians resent it when parties force elections in bad weather). So the Prodi government is likely to be short-lived and ineffective.

Of course that's only part of the bad news for Europe. The Chirac-Villepin surrender on the employment law (like Chirac's surrender on a similar law and his disastrous call for a special election in 1995) have doomed France to more stagnation. It's hard to see how Nicholas Sarkozy could win in 2007 or how either a new right or a new left government can do anything that needs to be done to revive France's stagnant economy. And Germany's Grand Coalition government seems unlikely to address that country's economic stagnation effectively.

The good news in Europe is that the United Kingdom and Ireland are still more Anglospheric (or as the French say, Anglo-Saxon) than European and that small countries like the Netherlands and Denmark and former Communist countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia have effective, intelligent governments. New Europe and the Anglosphere can show the way. But there's little sign, alas, that Old Europe is ready to follow.