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Italian report Italian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-11-27 10:23:55
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Centre-left chooses candidate to succeed Monti

Italy's centre-left votes on Sunday for a candidate who will become front runner to succeed Mario Monti as prime minister after a general election next spring. There are five candidates in the primary election but in reality the vote will pit Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani against youthful Florence mayor Matteo Renzi for leadership of an alliance which is well ahead in opinion polls. In an often bitter generational struggle, Bersani, 61, represents the traditional post-communist leadership of the left while Renzi, 37, vows to "scrap" the old guard and lead a root and branch renewal of Italy's political system. Recent opinion polls show Bersani, a colourless but canny career politician, pulling ahead of Renzi - whose shirt-sleeved U.S. style rally speeches and modernizing message have not been enough to convert traditional leftist supporters.

The party poll will remove one of the major elements of uncertainty dogging Italian politics ahead of the election to choose a successor to Monti's technocrat government. Its outcome will likely not be known until after December 2 when a second round runoff will be held. Polls currently have Bersani from 10-15 points ahead on just over 40 percent, well short of the 50 percent he needs for a first round victory. But he is likely to pick up the votes of third placed left winger Nichi Vendola, the openly gay governor of the southern Puglia region, in the second round.

While the fresh-faced, articulate Renzi, who comes across like an Italian version of Britain's Tony Blair, is much more popular across the general population than Bersani, he is far weaker among party supporters who will decide the primary. Both men reject the idea strongly espoused by international markets that the respected and sober Monti should return after the vote to continue his economic policies. With Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) close to disintegration and slumping in opinion polls to less than half its support in the last election in 2008, the centre-left has a clear field to win the general election. However there are many other undecided variables ahead of that vote including the dramatic rise of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which is now running second in opinion polls, and the around 50 percent of Italians who tell pollsters they are either undecided or will abstain.


Organized crime could take over Italy's banking system

Italy's largest business trade group Confesercenti denounced in a report that since 2010, as many as 450,000 companies have shut down as a consequence of the economic crisis that is plaguing the country.  Industrial output plummeted by over 20 per cent and orders by almost the same amount with building sector contracting by a whopping 29 percent between 2007 and 2011, another study by trade union CISL had previously warned. As a result about 300,000 jobs have been lost in almost a two-year period since 2010.

The Confesercenti report also warned that about 600,000 individuals in Italy are struggling under usurious loan conditions that threaten to bankrupt them. Loan sharking has become a national emergency Confesercenti denounced.  High debt levels continue to threaten at least two million Italian citizens.  Banks and other credit institutions in Italy are lending even less than normal as the liquidity crisis bites deeper, forcing more private individuals and entrepreneurs to resort to loan sharks.

Confesercenti found that over 5 million people have been blacklisted by Italy's banks and will be denied loans. If the only way to find credit in Italy is by way of usury there is a concrete danger that organized crime will soon replace the banking system.  If that has not happened, already.


Italy mayors march against austerity, threaten mass resignations

Hundreds of Italian mayors from across the political spectrum marched in Milan on Wednesday and threatened to resign en masse in protest at austerity measures imposed by Mario Monti's government of technocrats. A mass resignation would be a highly symbolic mark of public opposition to Monti's unpopular austerity plan but would not necessarily interfere with the running of the Rome government. Mayors from the smallest towns to the largest cities gathered in Italy's financial capital under the banner "Free towns from the Stupidity Pact", a reference to spending curbs imposed on local authorities under a so-called Stability Pact.

The head of the association of town councils, Graziano Delrio, met with central government officials to seek changes to the budget law currently before parliament, in particular a softening of cuts in local authority funding. Delrio said that unless the mayors' demands were granted they would assemble on November 29, when the budget is due to be discussed in its final reading in the Senate, to announce their mass resignations. The right-wing mayor of Rome, the leftist mayors of Milan and Turin and scores of their counterparts from the separatist Northern League and other parties put aside their differences to rally together outside the famous La Scala opera house at the event, organized by a body representing Italy's mayoralties.

The roughly 1,000 mayors, who attended, according to organizers, represented about an eighth of Italy's roughly 8,000 municipalities. Delrio said the cuts, aimed at trimming Italy's budget deficit, were eroding vital public services, damaging the education system, and meant that 2013 threatened to be "the year of the funeral of city governments". Many secondary schools across Italy are closed this week because they have been occupied by students in protest against government cuts.

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