Saturday, April 08, 2006

In Rome: Prodi will win, I think…

Since Thursday I am in Rome, following the Italian elections on a fantastic trip arranged by the Arena Group. Yesterday we had a fantastic row of meetings at the Swedish Embassy, where we met with journalists, politicians, trade unionists, etc. Later we went to the Union’s election finale in central Rome. Impressions so far, except for the nice weather and wonderful food.

1. I still think Prodi will win, for the same reasons I have listed earlier. And Berlusconi sure is desperate now, but the problem is that people who have not been turned of by his behavior during the last five years might not be that affected by another stupid comment or weird press conference (“We are going to beat the communists, just as we did in 1948”, Berlusconi is saying in today’s paper). If the center-left would lose, the election analysis will be easy: Prodi was too boring, The Union still too divided, and Berlusconi is a man who have taken politics to a new populist media-savvy level. But we should win this.

2. This election campaign has been mostly fought in the media, where Berlusconi dictates the rules. When we spoke to a representative from the DS, he admitted hands down that they did not manage to make the election a political one. It is still a media referendum about Berlusconi, and bread and butter politics has been playing the second violin throughout the campaign.

3. Italy, as lovely and disparate as it is, is often a laboratory where you can detect coming trends. It is evident that politics here has reached a new stage, a populist stage where politics ended up being subordinated to the media. Most naturally, I think this a very creepy and worrying development. And after a session about the role of religion and Church, one realizes that there are quite a few unpleasant tendencies in Italian politics. And how good is the European center-left when it comes to handling the new media landscape, long-term opinion building, and moral issues. Just look at the US of A…

But I was at least somewhat encouraged when I learnt from a representative from the trade union CGIL that the whole idea with a stronger Union and l’Ulivo started with a long letter from the trade union movement to Prodi. There is still hope, and I will never stop longing for a stronger and more unified Italian center-left. But one thing that was evident yesterday was that even the representative from DS was worried about how the cooperation would work after Election Day, should the center-left win.

And the center-left must win. As the impressive Italian MP Tana de Zulueta said to us yesterday; “you would never forgive us otherwise”.


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