Possibility of empowered left amid populist upswing in Italian elections
February 25, 2013

Italians voted for a second and final day in a general election on Monday with a surge in protest votes increasing the risk of an unstable outcome that could undermine Europe’s efforts to end its three-year debt crisis.

Opinion polls give the centre-left coalition led by former Industry Minister Pier Luigi Bersani a narrow lead but the race has been thrown wide open by the prospect of protest votes against austerity and corporate and political scandals.

"I’m sick of the scandals and the stealing," said Paolo Gentile, a 49-year-old Rome lawyer who said he had voted for the 5-Star Movement, an anti-establishment protest group set to make a huge impact at its first general election.

"We need some young, new people in parliament, not the old parties that are totally discredited," he said.

Most of the voters interviewed outside polling stations by Reuters on Sunday and Monday expected the next government would quickly collapse, thwarting efforts to end an economic crisis.

"I’m very pessimistic, I don’t think that whoever wins will last long or be able to solve the problems of this country," said Cristiano Reale, a 43 year-old salesman in Palermo, Sicily. He said he would vote for the far left Civil Revolution group.

A bitter campaign, fought largely over economic issues, has been closely watched by financial markets, nervous about the return of the kind of debt crisis that took the whole euro zone close to disaster and brought technocrat prime minister Mario Monti to office in 2011.

ANTI-EURO FORCES

"There are similarities between the Italian elections and last year’s ones in Greece, in that pro-euro parties are losing ground in favor of populist forces,” said Mizuho chief economist Riccardo Barbieri.

"An angry and confused public opinion does not see the benefits of fiscal austerity and does not trust established political parties."

(TPR NOTE: That’s because the only people who benefit from austerity are the rich. It’s one more way the rich are able to siphen money from the poor, creating wide-spread poverty and chaos, while collecting marginally higher numbers for themselves, which will never have an effect on their quality of life because they are already so rich that it doesn’t matter.)

Projections based on the vote count will be issued through the afternoon and the final result should be known late on Monday or early Tuesday.

An extremely close Senate race is expected in several battleground regions and this could delay the final result..

The election result is likely to be the most fragmented in decades, with the old left-right division disrupted by the rise of 5-Star, led by fiery Genoese comic Beppe Grillo, and by Monti’s decision to run at the head of a centrist bloc.

"It will be a vote of protest, maybe of revolt," said Corriere della Sera, Italy’s largest newspaper, on Monday.

It noted that for the first time the winning coalition is unlikely to get more than a third of the votes, making it harder to govern and likely opening weeks of complicated negotiations.

It is unclear how Grillo’s rise will influence the result, with some pollsters saying it increases the chances of a clear win for the centre-left, led by Bersani’s Democratic Party (PD), because 5-Star is taking votes mainly from Berlusconi.

After the first day of voting on Sunday, about 54 percent of voters had cast their ballots, a sharp fall on the level of 62.5 percent seen at the same stage in the last election in 2008.

If the trend continues on Monday it will confirm the disillusion of voters with a discredited political class.

CALL TO ARMS

The 5-Star Movement, backed by a frustrated younger generation increasingly shut out of full-time jobs, could challenge former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PDL) party as Italy’s second largest political force.

"Come on, it isn’t over yet," was Monday’s front page headline in Il Giornale daily, owned by Berlusconi’s brother, a call to arms to get out the vote.

The 76-year-old Berlusconi, has pledged sweeping tax cuts and echoed Grillo’s attacks on Monti, Germany and the euro in an extraordinary media blitz that has halved the lead of the centre-left since the start of the year.

Support for Monti’s centrist coalition meanwhile has faded after he led a lackluster campaign and he appears set to trail well behind the main parties.

After drawing hundreds of thousands of supporters to its final campaign rally on Friday, Grillo has said he fears voting fraud to try to block a massive breakthrough, telling his supporters to wet the lead in the pencils they use to vote to prevent the crosses being rubbed out.

Whatever government emerges will inherit an economy that has been stagnant for much of the past two decades and problems ranging from record youth unemployment to a dysfunctional justice system and a bloated public sector.

If Bersani wins, it is far from clear that he will be able to control both houses of parliament and form a stable government capable of lasting a full five-year term.

Source

Italian students clash with police in austerity protestsOctober 5, 2012
Police clad in riot gear violently clashed with student protesters as thousands poured onto the streets during anti-cuts demonstrations in several major Italian cities. Similar anti-austerity rallies were reported throughout the country.
Hundreds of high-schooled aged protesters scuffled with police in Rome as they attempted to reach the country’s education ministry. 
Riot police allegedly beat several student demonstrators with truncheons during the anti-cuts rally. Several demonstrators claim police pinned them to the ground with knees and batons pressed against their necks.
Four police officers were reportedly injured, and several organizers of the “unauthorized” protest were detained.
Police say they confiscated missiles lobbed at them during the skirmishes.
Several of the detained student protest organizers are currently being identified, and one 15-year-old demonstrator scooped up by police was later released to his parents.
"No to the Crisis and Austerity! Let’s take back our Schools and Cities!" read a large banner at the front of the protest in Rome.
"We take to the streets not only to say that we do not accept these austerity politics, but also to bring to the attention of the public the problems of the schools, to say that the school is an important piece of society and we can’t do without it," one demonstrator who did not provide his name said.
Source

Italian students clash with police in austerity protests
October 5, 2012

Police clad in riot gear violently clashed with student protesters as thousands poured onto the streets during anti-cuts demonstrations in several major Italian cities. Similar anti-austerity rallies were reported throughout the country.

Hundreds of high-schooled aged protesters scuffled with police in Rome as they attempted to reach the country’s education ministry. 

Riot police allegedly beat several student demonstrators with truncheons during the anti-cuts rally. Several demonstrators claim police pinned them to the ground with knees and batons pressed against their necks.

Four police officers were reportedly injured, and several organizers of the “unauthorized” protest were detained.

Police say they confiscated missiles lobbed at them during the skirmishes.

Several of the detained student protest organizers are currently being identified, and one 15-year-old demonstrator scooped up by police was later released to his parents.

"No to the Crisis and Austerity! Let’s take back our Schools and Cities!" read a large banner at the front of the protest in Rome.

"We take to the streets not only to say that we do not accept these austerity politics, but also to bring to the attention of the public the problems of the schools, to say that the school is an important piece of society and we can’t do without it," one demonstrator who did not provide his name said.

Source

Biggest Italian unions protest Monti’s spending cuts

September 28, 2012

Two of Italy’s biggest unions marched through Rome on Friday, Sept 28, to protest against Prime Minister Mario Monti’s cuts in public spending as opposition grows to austerity policies aimed at steering the country out of its economic crisis, Reuters reports.

The strike followed clashes between anti-austerity protesters and police in Madrid and Athens this week and coincided with labor unrest at the ILVA steel plant in southern Italy.

Monti’s coalition passed spending cuts in August that included a modest downsizing of the public sector, where wages have already been frozen for more than two years, and cuts to state healthcare funding.

University professors, public administration employees and health workers in the CGIL and UIL unions were to stop work in support of the march to the Colosseum. Garbage collectors were also joining the work stoppage. . Austerity measures have hurt household spending and deepened Italy’s recession. Italian unemployment rose to 10.7 percent in July, the highest since 2004.

Since August, anger over austerity and job losses has led to a growing number of industrial disputes, including at the ILVA steel mill in Taranto and at an aluminium smelter in Sardinia.

Although Monti is the most popular political figure in Italy, his comments on Thursday that he would be willing to serve again if no clear leader emerged from elections next spring prompted a chorus of complaints from opposition parties.

Source

Following a wave of protests coming from across the political spectrum and supported by residents and civil society committee on June 08, 2012, a thousand people or so took to the streets in Torrimpietra, a small village near Fiumicino, to stop the building of a new landfill in Pizzo del Prete. The plan does not stand a chance for the new site would be contaminating a pristine area of the Region Lazio and endanger the health of its residents. A few kilometers from the controversial site there are a pediatric hospital and Fiumicino International airport.

Following a wave of protests coming from across the political spectrum and supported by residents and civil society committee on June 08, 2012, a thousand people or so took to the streets in Torrimpietra, a small village near Fiumicino, to stop the building of a new landfill in Pizzo del Prete. The plan does not stand a chance for the new site would be contaminating a pristine area of the Region Lazio and endanger the health of its residents. A few kilometers from the controversial site there are a pediatric hospital and Fiumicino International airport.