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  • Spring is busting out all over Italy, but the political climate remains deep winter. Premier Matteo Renzi, whose popularity had been robust at almost 40% in January, is watching his once firm grip on politics slip to today’s 33%. Meanwhile the stormy problems facing his government – public works, migrants, election rules – would challenge any leader anywhere.
  • In his customary cordial way, President Giorgio Napolitano read the political elite of Italy the polite equivalent of the riot act. On Tuesday the president made his traditional end-of-year address to the ranking elders of the Italian state, and it obviously represented a carefully considered sermon. He also insinuated that he will end his term of office Jan. 14, after which a new president must be chosen.
  • Facts & Stories
    Judith Harris(April 13, 2012)
    Umberto Bossi, founding father of the Northern League, resigned as head of his party last week. After 30 years of blaming Rome of robbing, it turns out that some in Bossi's entourage were themselves stealing from the till, and on the grand scale. Bossi's son Renzo, who purchased a university degree with public funds, was no exception.
  • When you hear talk in a Roman trattoria of “Porcellum”, the diners are not discussing the pork roast on the menu—they’re talking politics. The back story is that after the current election bill became law, the man who wrote it, Roberto Calderoli of the Northern League, either shamelessly or carelessly called it“una porcata”, which Google’s free translation service puts into English as “crap.” Taking Google at its literal word, this means that the law which gave the present parliament and senate their seats and salaries is called in English “the crap law.” Political analyist Giovanni Sartori dressed it up a bit by putting it into Latin. Ever since the law is universally known as the Porcellum, suddenly under discussion because, after countless vague hints and blackmail-style threats, early elections begin to appear a real possibility. The signs are everywhere, but nowhere clearer than in the continuing concerns over ratings and the effectiveness (or not) of the new emergency budget.
  • Italian President Giorgio Napolitano refused to sign the bill on fiscal federalism, with comments that it was “unreceivable,” poorly drafted and generic. For Berlusconi the bill was a promise he had to keep, not least because Bossi, the head of the Northern League and the prime sponsor of federalism, is the beleaguered Premier’s sole remaining ally in government. To many, the rebuff showed that the government itself has come to a screeching halt
  • Facts & Stories
    Judith Harris(March 30, 2010)
    “We have given the left a lesson,” Berlusconi trumpeted from Rome Monday evening. Meanwhile, Umberto Bossi's populist right-wing, anti-immigrant Northern League will now control most of the wealthy industrial North. The political shellacking of the left can be put down to fragmentation and disaffection, but the real spoiler on the left were the stay-at-homes, or around 1.5 million who abstained.
  • Facts & Stories
    Judith Harris(April 30, 2008)
    Berlusconi chalks up his second victory this month. “We’ll be licking these wounds for as long as we have tongues, and maybe longer,” was the mournful comment of Alessandro Robecchi, in the left-wing newspaper Il Manifesto.