The Italian political system, mixed with the Byzantine machinations that characterise it baffles people living in less complicated democracies. For instance, reading English speaking papers it seemed that Italy under Berlusconi was in a virtual dictatorship. Yes he had conflicts of interest big as three continents being the owner of the major TV network and also being the leader of the government who runs the other most watched network. But the state owned TV and Radio did criticise the government, many times and mercilessly.
Now it’s happening again. Some English speaking commentators (mainly left leaning it seems) have now portrayed the new ‘technocrat’ government as some sort of coup d’etat where unelected officials are now running the country.
However this is not the case. What happened in Italy is exactly what the constitution states it should happen.
Prime Minister Berlusconi lost the confidence of the lower house and therefore didn’t have the numbers to govern and therefore resigned. Then the constitution places the responsibility of creating a new government to the President. Article 92 of the Italian constitution specifically states that it is up to the President to appoint a Prime Minister.
In previous occasions there would be long and protracted negotiations amongst all parties to finally arrive at a majority. But as the markets were tearing Italy apart and there was a risk that Italy would default, President, Giorgio Napolitano acted quickly. Again under the Italian constitution the President has the right to appoint five Senators . This is usually because of their contribution to Italian society (a bit like the House of Lords in England) but as the interest rates to repay the recurrent debt was rising astronomically every minute, Napolitano made Senator (and consequently made him eligible to become Prime Minister) someone who he thought could stabilise the situation which was Mario Monti.
The other reason why this move is not undemocratic is that according to section 94 of the Constitution “a government must have the confidence of both houses of parliament”. Therefore ultimately it is up to the representatives both in the House of Deputies and the Senate that decide whether this technocrat government will be supported. In fact the Northern League has already stated that they will not support this new government.
So, we may not like the fact that this government is made up of bankers and financiers, that , like the rest of the EU, Italy was forced to this because it has to dance to the tune of the markets and its capitalist rules. But it is not a dictatorship or undemocratic.