Berlusconi Ally Says Austerity “Failed,” Italy Must Cut Taxes

An influential member of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing party and a leading critic of the incumbent government’s austerity policies argues that Italy should defy Germany and cut taxes to retain competitiveness relative to other members of the European single-currency union.

Renato Brunetta, the main economics spokesman for Berlusconi’s Il Popolo della Libertà and a former public administration minister, said in an interview with Reuters that was published on Tuesday that Prime Minister Mario Monti’s budget and economic policies have failed. “Putting our heads down and carrying on like this with a blood, sweat and tears economic policy designed by Angela Merkel,” the German chancellor, “doesn’t help anyone,” he said.

Berlusconi, who announced that he will stand for election again next year after his party withdrew its support from Monti’s technocratic cabinet this month, has similarly criticized the incumbent government for toeing the German line on fiscal policy. Read more “Berlusconi Ally Says Austerity “Failed,” Italy Must Cut Taxes”

Berlusconi Blames Monti for Recession, Toeing German Line

German chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian prime minister Mario Monti speak in Berlin, August 29
German chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian prime minister Mario Monti speak in Berlin, August 29 (Bundesregierung)

Italy’s former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has accused his successor, Mario Monti, of dragging Italy into recession by toeing the German line on austerity.

Monti resigned this week after Berlusconi’s conservatives withdrew their support from this government, triggering elections that could take place as early as February.

Berlusconi is expected to become the prime ministerial candidate for Il Popolo della Libertà, the party he launched in 2007. Read more “Berlusconi Blames Monti for Recession, Toeing German Line”

Berlusconi Returns, Party Withdraws Support from Monti

Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives for a European Council meeting in Brussels, June 24, 2011
Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi arrives for a European Council meeting in Brussels, June 24, 2011 (European Council)

Silvio Berlusconi will seek to reclaim Italy’s prime ministership while his conservative party has withdrawn its support for Mario Monti’s technocratic government.

After meeting with party leaders on Friday, Berlusconi claimed in a statement that, “The situation today is much worse than it was a year ago when I left the government out of a sense of responsibility and a love for my country.”

“I cannot let my country fall into a recessive spiral without end. It’s not possible to go on like this,” he said after explaining that he had been “besieged by requests” to stand for election again.

An SWG opinion poll found 73 percent of Italians disapproving of the former prime minister’s decision to run again. Berlusconi was forced to resign in November of last year when the country teetered on the brink of sovereign default.

Angelino Alfano, secretary general of Berlusconi’s Il Popolo della Libertà, withdrew his support from the incumbent interim government on the same day which therefore no longer has a majority in parliament. But Alfano vowed not to bring Monti down. “Yesterday we did not give a vote of no confidence because we consider the experience of the Monti government has come to an end. But we don’t want to send the institutions and the country into chaos,” he said.

Alfano cited a collapse in home sales, economic contraction and raised taxes as reasons for his party to withdraw its support but offered the fiercest criticism of Monti’s government when he accused it of bowing to the left-wing Democratic Party, which in turn he claimed had bowed to the trade unions on tepid labor market reforms.

The left’s leader Pier Luigi Bersani, who was formally nominated for the prime ministership this weekend, accused the conservatives of “irresponsibility” and wondered, “You think you have some responsibility in the crisis?” Democratic Party argues that parliament ought to be dissolved if Monti cannot be sure of the backing of the right.

Bersani Declared Winner in Italian Left’s Primary Election

Pier Luigi Bersani speaks at a Democratic Party event in Bologna, Italy, February 24
Pier Luigi Bersani speaks at a Democratic Party event in Bologna, Italy, February 24 (Partito Democratico Emilia Romagna/Vincenzo Menichella)

Party secretary Pier Luigi Bersani has been nominated as the Italian left’s prime ministerial candidate. His challenger, Florence mayor Matteo Renzi, got just 40 percent of the votes.

Bersani, a former communist who served as minister for economic development in the country’s last left-wing government, emerged as the frontrunner from last week’s first voting round, despite a study showing Renzi to be the more viable general election candidate.

Bersani is popular on the left, but only 35 percent of Italian voters support him compared to 44 percent for Renzi.

With former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s conservatives down in the polls and incumbent prime minister Mario Monti set to step down next year, the left has a clear opportunity to win back control of the government. Read more “Bersani Declared Winner in Italian Left’s Primary Election”

Italy’s Left to Nominate Party Secretary for Premiership

Pier Luigi Bersani speaks at a Democratic Party event in Bologna, Italy, February 24
Pier Luigi Bersani speaks at a Democratic Party event in Bologna, Italy, February 24 (Partito Democratico Emilia Romagna/Vincenzo Menichella)

Party secretary Pier Luigi Bersani is almost certain to win the Democratic Party’s primary election in Italy this weekend, but he will have to battle the charismatic mayor of Florence Min a second round if he fails to win more than half of the votes.

More than three million Italians are expected to take part in the first voting round on Sunday.

The Democrats are the largest left-wing party in parliament and have supported Mario Monti’s economic reforms since he replaced Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister late last year. Read more “Italy’s Left to Nominate Party Secretary for Premiership”

Opposition to Euro Membership Growing in Italy

Across the political spectrum in Italy, Euroskepticism in rising. The leader of the separatist Lega Nord, former right-wing prime minister Silvio Berlusconi as well as the leftist Five Star Movement openly contemplate Italy leaving the single-currency union.

Lega Nord‘s new leader and former interior minister Roberto Maroni told La Repubblica newspaper in an interview that was published on Wednesday that his party, which seeks autonomy for the north of Italy, will try to attach a referendum to the 2013 general election “in which Italian citizens can have their say on the euro.” Although he believes that “Europe has failed” and the United Kingdom is “so strong outside the euro” (a questionable assertion given the island nation’s economic predicament), Maroni said, “What I would like to see is a new eurozone with northern Italy in the euro.” It wasn’t clear from the interview whether he cared more about northern Italian independence or leaving the currency union. Read more “Opposition to Euro Membership Growing in Italy”

Berlusconi Plans to Save Italy, Could Save Monti

Silvio Berlusconi
Italian prime minister Silvoi Berlusconi speaks at a meeting of European People’s Party leaders in Brussels, March 1 (EPP)

When Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was forced to resign in November of last year, nearly all of Europe and certainly part of Italy sighed in relief. The media tycoon’s third and last tenure as premier had been marked by scandal and fiscal disorder. Former European commissioner Mario Monti was heralded as Italy’s savior. Now Berlusconi is planning a comeback.

As Italians are increasingly frustrated with Monti’s austerity efforts — which include pension and public-sector pay cuts as well as tax increases and an unpopular labor market liberalization — the septuagenarian but ever flamboyant Berlusconi promises them an easy way out: either Germany leaves the single currency area or Italy will. It will “not be the end of the world,” he says.

The man who would be king is not kidding. A master of populist politics, Berlusconi taps into mounting Italian apprehension about Germany’s intransigence to not let the European Central Bank finance Southern European deficit spending more freely. The central bankers in Frankfurt last year purchased hundreds of billions of euros worth of Italian and Spanish government debt which temporarily reduced market interests on their bonds. Berlusconi likes to try that experiment again. If the Germans won’t budge, Italy should simply leave the euro which would return to it control of monetary policy. Read more “Berlusconi Plans to Save Italy, Could Save Monti”