Italy, continued:

Mike Livingstone has a nice summary here of what he (rightly, I think) calls "the most extraordinary day in recent Italian history" -- yesterday, when the results of the election were announced and, simultaneously, Bernard Provenzano, the leader of the Sicilian mafia who had been in hiding for forty three years, was finally arrested. It looks as though Romano Prodi, head of the center-left coalition, has won the narrowest of victories; his coalition received around 20,000 more votes than Berlusconi's. But under Italy's "bonus" system -- put into place, ironically, by the Berlusconi regime, and opposed at the time by most of the opposition center-left parties -- the coalition (not the party, but the coalition of parties) that receives the highest number of votes gets a bonus allocation of 40 seats in the Camera, the lower house of the national assembly. A razor-thin electoral vote margin can therefore produce a more substantial governing majority, and it looks like that's what Prodi has now; it was very weird, though, to try to follow the election results and to see the majority in the Camera flipping from one side to another as the votes were counted and Prodi's percentages went from 49.8 to 49.7 . . . . Prodi, as it happens, lives about 2 blocks from us here in Bologna. On the last night of the campaign, last week, his campaign held a big "comizio" -- sort of like an American political rally, but much less stage-y, much more serious -- in the big central square in Bologna, at the end of which Prodi just walked home . . . followed by thousands of supporters (mostly drawn from among the huge student population here) singing revolutionary anthems and waving their giant flags in the air. It was quite a scene; I'd let myself get more swept up in it all if I thought that Prodi really had good answers to what ails Italy. It will probably be a step up to be rid of Berlusconi -- but governing Italy with a left-wing coalition, a substantial portion of which consists of the Communists, will be no mean feat. During the campaign, Prodi attacked one of Berlusconi's labor law reforms, which had (shades of France!) raised the mandatory retirement age from 57 to 60; not, in my opinion, the move made by someone willing or able to tackle the very serious economic problems Italy faces at the moment. But I certainly wish him well -- if any country deserves good economic times, it's Italy.