Riding to the rescue?
When Il Caviliere signed off after narrowly losing the General Election to Romano Prodi, he told Italians to 'Sleep well'. So grey and tedious was the reputation of Prodi - bureaucrat supreme - that he predicted a deathly dull period of Italian politics. It is certainly true that the Italian media has become distinctly less vibrant since Berlusconi's departure. Something about the man attracts huge media excitement - possible the fact that he owns so much of the media.
In any event, Italian politics is certainly exciting again now
. The fall of Prodi's Government has significant internal repercussions. The coalition of the left - ranging from moderates to unreconstructed communists - has finally collapsed, over the issue of American bases. To be honest, the only really unifying feature of the coalition was the dislike of Berlusconi - faced by the realities of government, its collapse was inevitable. Unfortunately for Prodi, the budget has proved so unpopular that new elections would probably return Forza Italia
to power - still led by Berlusconi.
So first there will be an unsightly round of horse-trading, with elements of the right coalition being courted. If this fails, or even if it succeeds partially, allowing a weakened Prodi another six months life, new elections will duly be called. The real irony is that, if the left had been able to control its squabbles for another year, Berlusconi would almost certainly have been too old to run - by collapsing now, the Communists may have handed Il Caviliere a new chance at Government...