No Resolution Yet to Disputed Election in Italy
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
It's nearly a week since national elections in Italy. The Center-Left party of Romano Prodi apparently won. But incumbent Silvio Berlusconi and the Center-Right so far have not conceded and Mr. Berlusconi is still in the Prime Minister's Palace in Rome.
Beppe Severgnini is a columnist for Corriere della Sera; that's Italy's largest daily newspaper. He joins us from Rome.
Welcome to the program. And what the heck is going on over there? Why won't Mr. Berlusconi leave?
Mr. BEPPE SEVERGNINI (Columnist, Corriere della Sera): The difference was 25,000 votes, many more than in Florida in 2000. But still, 25,000, that's 0.0-something, so it's very small margin. And Mr. Berlusconi says that he wants all the recounts to be done. And then every couple of days they come up with a new argument, that the calculation was badly done, that the electoral law was read in the wrong way. But basically everybody, including Mr. Berlusconi, knows that the Left won by a very narrow margin. But they won.
CHADWICK: So Mr. Berlusconi apparently wants a deal. He wants to be included in the new government, make some grand coalition. Is there any chance that Mr. Prodi would go along with that?
Mr. SEVERGNINI: I don't think so. I know both men. And I know for a fact they really don't like each other. Maybe despise is too strong a word. You have to imagine, like an American government, a White House with both Kerry and Bush. I mean, it's something more than just being political opponents. It's just the two men don't get along. And also, the Left has a majority in both Houses, although a slim one in the upper House in the Senate. So they say, you know, let's give it a try and then we'll talk.
CHADWICK: Well, what is the law there? I mean, how long can Mr. Berlusconi go on saying I'm staying in the Prime Minister's Palace, I'm not leaving?
Mr. SEVERGNINI: Well, the system in Italy is a little different. It's not that he was expected to leave anyway, now. The president of the republic, which is a different figure in the parliamentary system, it's a bit like in Germany, you know, he appoints, as the prospective prime minister, the man who won the election, and this man has to form a government, go back to him or her, but it's a him, saying, Listen, this is my government. And there they go.
So what happened? Mr. Ciampi, our president, hasn't asked Mr. Prodi to form a government. Not yet. There is another complication that Mr. Ciampi's own term of office, seven years, will expire in a few days. So it's a very complicated constitutional jam.
CHADWICK: So you're saying the president's term is about to expire. He's the person who asks the prime minister to appoint a government. And he hasn't asked Mr. Prodi. It seems to me he's going to have to ask Mr. Prodi to form a government in the next, what, week?
Mr. SEVERGNINI: Well, yes. That's a possibility. But now it's more likely that the new parliament for the first time will convene and they will elect a new president of the republic. And this person will ask Mr. Prodi to form a government. So it is likely now that Mr. Prodi won't be able to form a government until the end of May.
CHADWICK: I use to try to keep track of all the Italian governments that had formed since World War Two. Do you know the number?
Mr. SEVERGNINI: Sixty.
CHADWICK: Beppe Severgnini is a newspaper columnist in Rome, and the author of the upcoming book, La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind.
Beppe, thank you.
Mr. SEVERGNINI: You're very welcome. Bye bye.