'The process is useless and let's hope Berlusconi leaves the Italians in peace': Radio hoax on political sage looks to have scuppered plan to end government deadlock

Valerio Onida was duped by Radio 24 into thinking he was talking in confidence to the famous scientist Margherita Hack

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Last-ditch plans to end Italy’s political deadlock, which is sending shivers across Europe, appear to have been torpedoed by a Radio show hoax.

In desperation at parliament’s inability to form a working government, and with Euro-speculators looking on intently, head of state Giorgio Napolitano recently appointed “10 wise men” charged with drawing up a broad government programme for which all the parties could vote.

The unlikely strategy seems to have been wrecked, however, after one of the political sages was tricked on Thursday into saying he believed the process was “useless” — before adding similar comments about centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi's value to the country.

The “wise man”, and ex-constitutional court president Valerio Onida, was duped by Radio 24’s La Zanzara show into believing he was having an informal chat with the famous scientist Margherita Hack.

Within seconds he was telling her the 10 wise men plan was “probably useless; it’s needed to cover up this period of stalemate”.

And on plans by three-time premier Mr Berlusconi to maintain and even boost his parliamentary influence, Mr Onida said: “He’s old. Let’s hope he decides to enjoy his old age, he’s my contemporary. He could go and enjoy his retirement and leave the Italians in peace.”

Mr Berlusconi’s PDL (People of Freedom) party has reacted furiously and called for the committee to be disbanded and for a early return to the polls  — something that President Napolitano desperately wants to avoid in order to limit damage to Italy on the bond markets. 

As is often the case when experts talk honestly, Mr Onida’s comments appear to reflect rather accurately, Italy’s forlorn political situation.

“I think we’re going  to vote again soon – or very soon,” he said. “Parliament is blocked and Grillo doesn’t want to know…and Berlusconi still wants to have some sort of advantages or protection [from the law].

“The [centre-left] Democratic Party tried to kick him out with Grillo’s help but didn’t manage it. It’s all blocked.”

A small ray of hope appeared today, however, with reports that dozens of Beppi Grillo’s Five Star Movement parliamentarians might consider ignoring their leader and instead voting with PD to obtain at least some of their demands on voting reform and anti-corruption legislation before parliament is, sooner or later, dissolved.