“Two lots of black smoke from parliament,” joked the website of Italy’s Corriere della Sera yesterday when the country’s shambolic houses of parliament failed to elect speakers after two rounds of voting.
This was a reference, of course, to the fact that while a bunch of septuagenarians chanting in Latin have managed to elect a supreme monarch in less than 48 hours, there still isn’t a working government in Italy – the eurozone’s third biggest democracy. The signs suggest more than ever that the wheels are coming off.
The normally routine duty of electing speakers was locked in a stalemate, which doesn’t augur well for the establishment of a stable government.
Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani’s coalition came first in the February general elections. But he needs to win support from the comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement for a vital majority in the Senate. And Mr Grillo’s anti-establishment parliamentarians are not playing ball. More often than not, they’re taking the mickey.
Italy’s tainted establishment is not alone in facing Mr Grillo’s ire. He attacked the newspaper La Repubblica for its claim that he had jokingly invited al-Qa’ida to target the Italian parliament and given them the co-ordinates. Yet the newspaper has a video clip to prove it – and if you think Mr Grillo couldn’t possibly have said such a thing, bear in mind that some of his MPs think the Twin Towers atrocity was an “inside job”.
Mr Grillo’s supporters say he’s no longer a comedian but an activist. That might be so, but Italy’s political situation is certainly resembling a joke.