Politics can be a rather dull affair. I am still a newcomer to Italy and by extension to Italian politics. My knowledge of its power mechanism is sketchy. What I know, or let’s say what I think I know, is what I read in newspapers or what I picked up at my local language school. My impression so far is that politics is generally less taken seriously here and quite entertaining, a drama that makes you laugh and cry in short succession.
Umberto Bossi was one of the most prolific performers on this stage. He founded the Lega Nord 21 years ago, a party that has never been short of controversial ideas and policies. The secession of ‘Padania‘ (the Po Valley, or in other words North Italy) from the rest of Italy has been its main aim. Rom has been constantly targeted and accused by La Lega and Bossi of wasting north Italian money on south Italian projects which would only benefit the central government and the Mafia. The slogan Roma ladrona (loosely translated as: ‘Rome big thief’) was coined to propagate this view. But why was La Lega then part of all three Berlusconi governments (in Rome) since 2001? This is only one of many entertaining inconsistencies.
Another one is the fact that Bossi was forced to resign due to an unfolding financial scandal (see The Economist‘s article: Italy’s Northern League). The former treasurer of the party, Belsito, is under suspicion of fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering. It is believed that taxpayer’s money belonging to the party was spent on Bossi’s family (travel expenses of Bossi’s children, refurbishment of Bossi’s house).
The interesting question now is: What does the future hold for this party? Does it have any? With the founder and dominant leader gone, its image of financial transparency and clarity undermined, the party could find itself in serious trouble. The local elections at the beginning of May will be a good indicator of its future chances. The big test however will be the next general elections. They have to take place in 2013. All parties jockey already for pole position. The political landscape is moving. There is talk that Casini is trying to assemble a new centrist party that could also include ministers of Mario Monti’s technocrat government (maybe Monti himself?). Does he plan to stay on as prime minister? Who knows. And how does a somewhat new Lega Nord fit in this emerging system?
It wouldn’t be Italy if we would have already all the answers.