Close in Italy: a shame they can't both lose

If the foreign commentators had anything to do with it, Italy's election today and tomorrow would be a shoo-in for the Socialist-Communist-fellow-traveller coalition. Silvio Berlusconi was taken ill during the long campaign and the almost universal view is that he came off worst in all the television debates. In Sicily, he was denounced as an unwitting tool of the Mafia, elsewhere he was described as a crook, a loon and an American stooge.

Berlusconi also upset his opponents when he suggested that Italians aren't big enough "pricks" to vote Socialist.

And yet the man may win.

To the extent that a Berlusconi triumph will put all the people in London, who swallowed the wasp over George W. Bush's re-election in 2004, into a hissy-fit, I'm hoping for the narrowest win possible. But I'm not expecting it.

If Berlusconi wins, it will be because he's had some luck in the last few days.
1) Abdul Rahman. The report in Le Figaro [in French here] rightly call the issue a "blessing" for Mr Berlusconi. The Christian vote may be less than a majority, but it is hard to imagine what Mr Berlusconi could have done to shore up the church-going vote at cheaper cost. What are the leftists supposed to do? Not much it seems.

2) Abortion. These days the abortion-haters and the abortion-lovers are both minorities. But the pro-abortion types either voted left-wing already, or can't be bothered to vote (it's not cool). Net effect, condemning the excesses of abortion pays off for a non-leftist party.

3) Berlusconi=global player vs. Prodi=euro-fixer. I know people who voted against John Major in 1997 because his haircut was rubbish compared with Tony Blair's. The man knows how to dress and how to sit next to the U.S. President without looking out of place. If style loses votes, Mr Romano Prodi is doomed.

4) An attempt to "do a Madrid" was foiled by the Italian security forces. I've seen very little coverage of this incident. But it is hard imagine how it helps the left to be the party Al Quaeda wants to win.

On the other hand, Mr Berlusconi is facing another round of investigations over criminal activities (although nothing serious enough for the British Labour Party to refuse taking money for or worry about connecting with).

His support among business leaders is not as solid as it was. Italian expatriates get to vote for the first time, my guess is they're more likely to be moralistic about corruption and pro-E.U.. Anyway, if its a contest between left-wing ballot-rigging and right-wing ballot-stuffing, my money's on the labour unions.

We know which way the U.S. Democratic left is leaning: weird how they 1) deny that they are fellow-travellers of Communism, 2) support a coalition that includes Communists, at every turn (Italy, before that Cambodia, Chile, Cuba, Spain, Venzuela, Vietnam). Sounds like Gulag-denial to me.

For the record. I do not advocate a vote for Forza Italia, it includes some very unsavoury people. "It's a shame they can't both lose."

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