Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Romano Prodi’s resignation

So, after nine months as Prime Minister of Italy, former President of the European Commission Romano Prodi (a bit of a political hero of mine if only thanks to his refusal to ever join a political party, despite holding two such high offices) has been forced to tender his resignation after losing a key vote over The War Against Terror by just two votes. (Mr Blair? Ahem?)

Still, this is Italy – nine months as PM is actually pretty damned impressive. Ignoring the twenty-one years under Mussolini, few Italian PMs last more than a few months. Even with the gap under Il Duce, Italy’s managed no fewer than sixty Prime Ministers (some being repeats) since 1900. There have been ten since 1990 – even allowing for the strange knack Silvio Berlusconi had of holding on to power by staying in office for the best part of five years from 2001-6.

Still, Berlusconi’s first term as Prime Minister in 1994-5 only lasted eight months, so Prodi’s out-done that – if not his own first term as PM, when he managed to hold out for a whopping twenty-nine months between May 1996 and October 1998. By Italy’s standards, that’s nearly as impressive as FDR or Thatcher…

Still, with Berlusconi pretty much incapacitated through being a key defendant in a lengthy fraud trial (just one of many bits of dodginess – testified to by the fact that there’s a Wikipedia page devoted to the trials he’s been caught up in) and in rather poor health, there’s a good chance that Prodi could come back pretty swiftly, perhaps even securing a slightly more respectable win than his 49.81% to 49.74% victory in last April’s elections. (Should it end up going to an election, that is…)

But then again, making predictions about Italian politics is a mug’s game. Even if you know the way things work in Italy inside out, the complexities, alliances and resentments within the two main coalitions – Prodi’s leftish, twenty-one-party L’Unione (formerly known as L’Ulivo) and Berlusconi’s rightish, twenty-party Casa delle Libertà – are shifting so frequently that you’d pretty much need to keep tabs on every politician in the land to have any idea what’s going on. Italian politics is the butterfly effect on a national scale – there may well be some logic behind the thing, but ninty-nine times out of a hundred if someone claims they’ve worked out how it all makes sense and can work out what’s going to happen next, they’re either lying or deluded…

Update: The International Herald Tribune is (as always) rather good on this.


  1. I'm gutted that Prodi's resigned (and irritated not to have got the news first). Small clarification: l'Unione and l'Ulivo aren't the same thing. The Unione is the whole coalition, the Ulivo is the core group of parties which Prodi hopes to merge into a single 'Democratic Party'.

  2. Unione / Ulivo – Iran / Iraq

    It's all far too confusing these days… I am, however, expecting a proper explanatory post from you at some point on this – one of the few people who not only understands but can also explain Italian politics.

  3. major difference with your blair reference: prodi today lost a vote on the whole of his government's foreign policy; also, the foreign minister, d'alema, had yesterday said that, had they not won in the senate, the government would have had to go.

    on predicting what happens next: definitely not elections… probably another prodi…

  4. Most of the news sources I've seen are predicting that Prodi will probably return, but as you say, making predictions in Italian politics is a mugs game. I think Berlusconi's chances of making a comeback are quite slim, thankfully.

    What I find interesting is that apart from the odd strike, Italy seems to work quite well with its governments collapsing every few months; everything just seems to carry on as normal.

  5. Pingback: Nosemonkey / Europhobia » Blog Archive » A weekend EU constitution roundup

  6. Pingback: Nosemonkey / Europhobia » Blog Archive » Prodi and the EU’s “one size fits all” approach