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  • On June 2 Italy marked the 68th anniversary of the founding of the Republic with a parade in Rome and the traditional overflight of the Frecce Tricolori military airplanes, which left in the bright blue sky trails of the colors of the Italian flag. Appearing together with Premier Matteo Renzi at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Piazza Venezia, President Giorgio Napolitano spoke movingly of “all the Italian soldiers who sacrificed their life in the service of the nation.” Just a century ago World War One began, and European nations fought each other. Today, said Napolitano, they stand under the same flag.
  • Most of the pundits and pollsters got it wrong - seriously wrong. Not one had hazarded that Premier Matteo Renzi's Partito Democratico (PD) would walk away with almost 42% of the vote for a new European Parliament, and - even more startling - that his blustering arch-rival Beppe Grillo of the Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) would manage to lose some 2.5 million voters, claiming at best 21.6% of the electorate. (The figures are not definitive because they do not include the overseas vote and some outlying Italian districts.)
  • Next week former Premier Silvio Berlusconi , 77, begins his gig as social worker in an old folks home four hours a week. This punishent for his tax fraud conviction is sufficiently minimalist that Berlusconi is now back to fiercely attacking Premier Matteo Renzi , 39. Berlusconi’s weapon of choice: the revised election law slangily called the "Italicum,” one of Renzi’s points of honor. In January the two had struck an agreement on the essentials of the bill, which in fact was passed easily in the Chamber of Deputies March 12. Since then the bill has been stalled in the Senate, and now Berlusconi threatens to renigue on their agreement. If so, Renzi says it will succeed even without Berlusconi. But that is not the only problem Renzi faces.
  • Three deadlines are approaching on the turbulent Italian political agenda. First is former premier Silvio Berlusconi's future of either house arrest or social services. Second is the government's proposed reduction in size and scope of the Italian Senate. Third is a European Parliamentary vote that will be viewed as a litmus test of the relative strengths of the Italian parties. At the moment Premier Matteo Renzi's Partito Democratico has a healthy lead, but Beppe Grillo's Movimento Cinque Stelle and Silvio Berlusconi's reborn Forza Italia are increasingly vying for second place.
  • It's a done deal: on Wednesday the Chamber of Deputies passed a revised election law dubbed the "Italicum," with 365 votes in favor, 156 nays and 40 abstentions. The new law, whose aim is to promote governing stability in a country where the political parties are locked in a three-way split, now passes to the Senate for debate and approval. But Premier Matteo Renzi's point was also to show that he can make good on his promises to bring change.
  • The proposal for a revision of the election process finally made it into the Chamber of Deputies this week, as neo-Premier Matteo Renzi had promised, but it does not quite resemble the deal expected after he and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi had a widely publicized (and widely criticized) meeting to hash it out. In the Senate, Beppe Grillo, head of the Movimento Cinque Stelle, went on a North Korean-style warpath, casting out dissidents. New polls show center-right and center-left neck and neck, and, for Grillo, disapproval.
  • Who, me, Justice Minister? Mamma mia, what an enormous responsibility!" Andrea Orlando, 45, member of Renzi's Partito Democratico PD), said this on learning that he had been tapped for what is--and not only in consideration of former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's travails--one of the toughest slots in the government of Matteo Renzi. To be sworn into office on Monday, the cabinet will be the second smallest in Italian history, with only sixteen ministers. For the first time fully half of Renzi's cabinet ministers are women--and they are young.
  • Premier designate Matteo Renzi is a man in a hurry. After being tapped by President Giorgio Napolitano on Monday, he declared that he will "go for broke" to introduce reforms and that he intends for his government to last four years, or until the natural end of the legislature. He has listed four crucial political goals, with deadlines. Most, however, are the same goals that have frustrated his predecessors in office. On entering Parliament Tuesday Renzi--who is not an MP--actually got lost and had to be shown the way. Can he help Italy find its way out of what he has called "a swamp"?
  • "We need a radical project if we are, all together, to drag ourselves out of the swamp," Matteo Renzi told the Partito Democratico (PD) executive today. "We cannot go forward in a situation of uncertainty." That uncertainty may be at an end. Today Premier Enrico Letta, the sober economist who has managed to placate the EU by bolstering Italy's debt position, seemed on the threshold of being obliged to pass the hand to the slightly younger but more charismatic Renzi, former mayor of Florence. "Mine is zen calm," said Letta, "day to day." Following the conclusion of the PD meeting Letta announced that he would resign formally tomorrow.
  • Op-Eds
    Judith Harris(February 09, 2014)
    For the next two weeks Matteo Renzi, who heads the Partito Democratico, and Premier Enrico Letta, who heads the government in the name of that same party, are expected to remain at polite loggerheads. But behind their jittery quiet lurks the risk of new elections, which both say they do not want. Within this time vacuum, political outsiders, both Italian and foreign, offer suggestions.