It was clear from the beginning of this legislature that the greatest threat to its survival came not from the left, responsible for bringing down Prodi's first government, but from the centre, a haemorrhoid-like cluster of mini-parties, most of whose leaders are, or have been, investigated for corruption, favouritism or collusion (Mastella, Dini, Di Pietro). The left has had to grit its teeth and vote for any number of unpalatable provisions simply to keep Prodi in power. It's seen parts of the electoral manifesto - such as support for civil unions - scrapped. It's even toed the line over foreign policy decisions that would have brought Prodi 1 down in two shakes of a snake's tail, alienating substantial chunks of its own electorate in the process. To its credit, it's understood that real politik is based on compromise, rather than unbending principle.
Not that the centre's obstructionism and wheeler-dealing has had anything to do with principle. The way Mastella and his merry gang have behaved over the last two years, as though the Italian parliament were part of their personal fiefdom, is simply cringe-making to watch. There is nothing such men wouldn't do to be able to continue to dispense largesse and rake in the profits from it, which, as often as not, have as much to do with the exhilarating buzz of power as they do with cash. (Not that they're short of that.) There are rumours already that Mastella and Berlusconi are brokering some squalid little deal which will ensure the former's political survival. To counter this, and to show the extent to whoch Italian politics is contingent on private interests, there is talk that some of the teeny-weenier parties of the right might, just might, be tempted to cross over to the centre-left and keep it alive for another month or so. Naturally, they'd be rewarded.
The cherry on the cake is that the head of the Italian Episcopal Council, Bagnasco, has informed the electorate (Italy's electorate, naturally - the Vatican's subjects don't get to vote) that the church will not tolerate civil unions, etc. etc. Nobody asked him, he just thought he'd remind us. Oh yes, the church will also oppose any attempt to introduce the notion of gender into Italian law; apparently it remains entirely Christian to insult and disscriminate against gay men and women with impunity. How far the Vatican is from Fred Phelps and his God Hates Fags gang is a moot point. Richard Dawkins would say they're the same thing and, until I hear an awful lot of dissent from grassroots catholics - something that's signally absent at the moment - I'd tend to agree with him.
Today is the first birthday of my blog. I was going to celebrate but I'm sick to the stomach about all this. I've never been less in love with Italy than I am today. I don't even want to begin to talk about the toxic rubbish in Naples. I'd be unable to resist a metaphor that's better left implicit. I'll just post a picture and you can do the creative business yourselves.