Thursday, February 22, 2007

Prodi's Gamble

Italy's Prime Minister Romano Prodi has decided to resign after losing a vote over what left-wing critics in his ruling coalition have called his pro-American foreign policy. Keeping a couple of thousand troops in a non-dangerous bit of Afghanistan and expanding one military base hardly seems particularly radical or pro-American to me, but it was enough to condemn Prodi to a two-vote defeat.

The real reason he's resigned is not because he actually wants to quit, but because he reckons the President will ask him to form another coalition government, probably with a slightly different line-up of parties. Offering to quit in the hope you'll be allowed to carry on is a risky strategy (ask Greg Dyke) and if the President instead decides to go for new elections, the always-colourful Silvio Berlusconi will be well placed to storm back to power, leaving Prodi out in the cold.

But the most interesting thing about all this is how little it seems to matter. The Italian stock exchange is actually up today. With 61 governments since the war I suppose we shouldn't be surprised at the indifference of the Italian people to the sort of political chaos that would cause other countries to grind to a halt. And as long as we don't find out the foreign policy crisis is somehow linked to football match-fixing, most Italians will keep on shrugging their shoulders.

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