It is the most famous quote in modern Italian literature, because it captures so well the cynicism and conservatism of modern Italian politics. “If we want everything to remain as it is,” says Tancredi in Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s “The Leopard”, “everything needs to change.” For once, Italy’s politicians have turned the saying on its head. On April 20th they arranged for things to stay as they were in order to get them to change. After failing to find agreement to elect a new president, the heads of Italy’s two leading mainstream parties, Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party (PD) and Silvio Berlusconi of the People of Freedom (PdL) movement, went to the 87-year-old incumbent, Giorgio Napolitano, and begged him to stay on. Unsurprisingly, given his age, Mr Napolitano had discounted a second term. So he was able to make demands: he would agree only if the PD and PdL broke the deadlock that was stopping the formation of a new government.
Mr Berlusconi, who has argued for a left-right coalition ever since the election in February produced a hung parliament, needed no persuading. But Mr Bersani had sought a minority government backed by some from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), whose remarkable showing at the polls had given it the balance of power in the upper-house Senate. For Mr Bersani, the president’s ultimatum was a bitter pill—one of several which had prompted him only the day before to say that he would resign.
The “reverse Leopard strategy”, as it might be known if Italian politics were chess (rather than something infinitely more complex), worked a treat. By the close on April 23rd, the Milan bourse was up 6.7% on its level before the presidential election and the risk premium on Italian government bonds had dropped by 29 basis points (though that also had something to do with central-bank moves in Japan and the United States).
The next day the new-old President Napolitano asked Enrico Letta (pictured above), Mr Bersani’s deputy, to put together a government. In doing so, he deftly blunted the criticism of those such as the M5S’s co-founder, Beppe Grillo, who had depicted his re-election as a manoeuvre to block the rejuvenation of Italy’s ageing political class. At 46, Mr Letta will not only be modern Italy’s second-youngest prime minister, but one of the youngest leaders in Europe—just two months older than Britain’s David Cameron.
Full Article: Italian politics: Italy’s new prime minister | The Economist.