They're off. Led by the Life Senators (4 of the 6 as Ciampi is permanently incapacitated by ill health) Elena Cattaneo, Monti, Napolitano, Rubbia, (Renzo Piano isn't there). The Partito Democratico, united behind their leader Matteo Renzi, are voting for Mattarella; as is the whole centre right in their various manifestations; the Lega Nord; and the 'Rabbit and his Friends and Relations' group of autonomous regions with a particular determination from all the Sicilians (no-one will forget Mattarella's elder brother, gunned down on the streets of Palermo by the Mafia on his way to Mass, dying in his brother's arms in the 1980s).
Berlusconi has recovered his temper and his manners enough to realise that deserting the hall during the voting for the President of Italy might finish off his party completely and has asked Forza Italia to vote blank. But his Party has fractured under the strain of many southern members' desire to support Mattarella and some 40-50 will vote for the candidate.
The Five Stars have declared an intention to vote for another candidate, but already a dozen of them have deserted Party discipline (and perhaps even the grouping) and will vote for Mattarella. The 5-Stelle, too, has made a huge political blunder, then, in attempting to gain quite petty advantage from this presidential election.
This has been a masterly demonstration by the Italian Prime Minister of how to do politics: the best candidate; an overwhelming support base; a unification of his own fractured Party; the destruction of an embarrassment of an alliance to his right while detaching many of the Right to his support; the rendering irrelevant of Italy's Podemas - Europe will be challenged but from Renzi's programme, not that of the wilder shores of the Left/anarchists -; the maintenance of his own drive to more prime-ministerial style powers into his hands (he cannot, directly, even dismiss one of his ministers though he did remark, sharply and publicly to Minister of the Interior Alfano 'You cannot be such a Minister and fail to vote for such a candidate' when Alfano tried to withold his minority coalition party's support for Mattarella in his own, narrow political interest.); the seeing off of the arch-Europeanistas -Amato, Prodi leading the pack.
Europe may be worried by Greece: they should be much more concerned at Italy.
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