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Italy's sandwich snafu

Why Silvio Berlusconi's party won't be represented in Rome's regional elections.

Last week, Berlusconi met with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano to ask him to approve a government decree that would change regional election rules. Napolitano compromised by signing an “interpretative decree.” It would give party delegates a 24-hour extension beginning with the passage of the law to turn in their list, if they had entered the courthouse in time but weren’t able to accomplish the task — a perfect fit in Milioni’s case.

But when the Italian President left the final decision to Rome judges, they rejected the decree as “inapplicable.”

With this last accident, the PdL’s voter base has questioned the party’s efficacy in bringing candidates to power. The pro-Berlusconi newspaper Il Giornale blamed it on the incompatibility between two clashing perspectives inside PdL.

The party was created to unify Italy’s two main conservative forces, Berlusconi’s former “Forza Italia” (Go Italy) and Gianfranco Fini’s “Alleanza Nazionale” (National Alliance). Through the partnership, Berlusconi and Fini granted themselves a permanent majority. But it came with a price.

Since its founding in March 2009, the party has confronted multiple shockwaves that have left deep rifts. On one hand, the constant attempts by Milan judges to bring Berlusconi to trial for bribing and fiscal fraud; on the other, the bold attacks on Berlusconi by his most strategic de facto ally — Gianfranco Fini himself, who is now President of the Italian Parliament.

If the PdL isn’t going to compete in Latium this year, Italians will be left wondering whether election rules blocked democracy — or the exact opposite.