should prove deeply entertaining. Another one of Bush's European allies has bitten the dust. With the votes of Italians abroad in, Romano Prodi, former president of the European Commission, will be Italy's next prime minister.
Italy is notoriously unstable, having had something on the order of 50 different governments in half century following the Second World War. The margin of victory for Prodi's Unione coallition was razor thin garnering 49.8 % of the vote in the Chamber of deputies, while Berlusconi's Casa delle Libertà (CDL) took 49.7% of the vote.
(Go here for a nice breakdown of the parties from Wikipedia.
Il Corriere della Sera
has a graphic up showing the breakdown. The color scheme is the opposite of America's. Prodi's left grouping is red, Berlusconi's right grouping is blue. On top is the Chamber of deputies, below is the Senate. There was an impressive turnout (83.6%)
While the Italians have (narrowly) opted for regime change, Berlusconi's party is refusing to concede defeat, demanding a recount.
Prodi's alliance won narrowly in the lower house and Sky Italia TV projected that it would have a majority of one or two seats in the upper house Senate thanks to votes of Italians abroad that were still being counted.
"We can govern for five years," Prodi told reporters. "My government will be politically and technically strong."
However, Prodi's victory in the Senate was still not official more than 24 hours after polls closed.
And his margin in the lower house Chamber of Deputies was so slim that the center-right demanded a review of the count, raising the prospect of a lengthy wait before a final outcome.
Hmm.... Sky is owned by who? Reliable sources... right.
Prodi is set to reorient Italy towards Europe, "New Europe" seems to be shrinking, and "Old Europe" is happily awaiting the installment of a responsible government that understands that the EU and the euro are an opportunity and not a burden.
And in a snub to Berlusconi's alliance as it held back from conceding, France and Luxembourg offered the first international stamps of approval for Prodi's coalition.
French European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna said in a congratulatory message to Prodi that he would "play an essential role in the relaunching of Europe".
When will the Bush administration speak up? You'd think that they be greatful for Italian help forging the Niger documents. Of course it ought to be interesting to see Bush reconcile support for his good friend Berlusconi with the recount that even after rigging Italian election law in his favor, and owning 3 TV networks (Silvio Berlusconi is Italy's Rupert Murdoch, oh yes that's who owns Sky....), he still couldn't steal the election fair and square. Poor Silvio, will it be cruxifiction or exile to Elba?
Berlusconi true to his affection for Napoleon will not concede, and in a devlopement that could let us all learn the Italian for "chad", CDL is saying that they won't concede until all the votes are counted.
If you belong to a right wing party, ally with racists, have a sketchy relationship with the mafia, dream of launching crusades, and have a messianic complex this is ok, because as we know only the first one matters. Here's the money shot. (Silvio, metta sopra i vostri pantaloni.)
Center-right politicians said the number of spoilt ballots outnumbered Prodi's margin. "Such a tiny difference necessitates a scrupulous checking of the counting," said Paolo Bonaiuti, a top Berlusconi aide.
It was unclear how sweeping a recount the center-right might demand, how long it could take or whether the battle would end up in Italy's notoriously slow legal system.
So what will Bush do, now that the French have called out their choice?