Italy And The President
First of all, let us make clear the President in Italy is a very powerful man. Besides a wide-ranging immunity from prosecution – the most obvious reason why Berlusconi wants the job – the President is a kind of “Supreme Ayatollah” over the country, particularly in the (rather frequent) situations of instability and no clear majority in Parliament.
The President can steer who becomes Prime Minister, and whether or not there should be new elections, and with whom as Prime Minister; he nominates on his own five of the 15 judges of the Constitutional Court, and the five life senators (of course, when places become vacant). He is the head of the Army, and the Carabinieri swear freedom not to the Republic, like all civil servants, but to the President. He could give them the order to arrest the Prime Minister and all the Government, and they would obey like a shot. Last time I looked, He was the direct head of all the Secret Services, and informed of all the best kept State secrets; far more, if you ask, than the Prime Minister himself. He has other things beside: presidential pardon, head of the organ controlling the Judiciary (this is largely ceremonial) etc.
These are not symbolic powers. President Leone triggered a new election to screw the Commies in 1971, and President Scalfaro (the greatest of them all, and a truly hardliner Catholic) famously disbanded Parliament in 1993, completely destroying the Socialist Party in the following election. I could make further – if less extreme – examples. Basically, among the great Western countries only the French President has more power than the Italian one.
Traditionally, everything is done to have a “bipartisan” candidate, and Presidents have been – with one or two exceptions; Pertini and Saragat come to mind – prestigious politicians enjoying the trust of very many, be they of right-wing (Segni, Cossiga) or rather Left-Wing (Napolitano, the actual one) background.
The President is a very powerful man, and should be – though he not always was in the past – a man of unimpeachable character. The President represents the democratic Institutions, and the chosen one is one requested to be ready to die for his country, and the one Italians are requested to, if necessary, die for.
In the case of many of them – Einaudi, Segni, Cossiga and Scalfaro first; other like Ciampi and Napolitano were rather all right – there is no doubt this was the case. Besides being powerful, the President is the Country’s flag, and as we get to elect him rather than getting the nincompoop royal loins have generated (why does the name “Charles” come to mind now?…) we should do it right.
It is, therefore, more than alarming that some of the wrongest possible names have been circulated in he last weeks: Dario Fo and Emma Bonino.
Dario Fo, the former clown candidate of Grillo’s formation – I have written about it – was intermittently in the news for a couple of weeks, but the absurdity of the name became soon evident to the most stupid. Unfortunately, another name got some traction: Emma Bonino.
Bonino used to be the epitome of everything the sane part of the country, particularly the women, hated: the kind of person who would smoke marijuana in front of a policeman to get arrested (several of these stunts); a rabid, and I mean rabid abortionist; a ferocious divorce activist; and a first-class “liberated” woman, which you can safely assume is code for whore.
But Bonino was different than her old boss, the truly satanic Marco Pannella. At a certain age, she endeavored to be taken seriously, and managed to “recycle” herself into a kind of “institutional” figure. EU Commissioner, Member of the European Parliament, Minister. Her CV now sounds innocuous to most Italians; but make no mistake, she is every bit the old bitch.
Emma Bonino is one of those people who made the Nazism of modern times mainstream. Therefore, she can be a Nazi and pass for mainstream at the same time. It would be wrong to say that she has changed, though there might be a little truth in that; it is far more pertinent to say those who knew her for what she is have died and the new generation is not so different from her.
Emma Bonino is certainly running, and she has some cards to play: EU and government experience, the reputation of having “aged well”, the clearly shown ability to “do what is required” and adjust to public perception. Still, I don’t think she will make it. The smell of the past has largely evaporated, but I think it’s still too evident for the Number One Job. If you ask me, she just doesn’t have the standing. Always if you ask me, she will be used as expendable card to advance, at the right time, the candidature of someone far more fitting like Romano Prodi: more prestigious jobs both in Italy and Brussels, known worldwide, respected everywhere, and one of the most honest politicians I have ever seen in any country. Unfortunately, one who might abandon us in the matter or perversion, then he is a “rose water” Catholic too.
But better than Bonino, every day of the week.