Friday, May 19, 2006

The post below is a bit brief. I would like to explain why I am so thrilled that Clement Mastella is minister of Justice.

First the phrase "Francesco Tiratore" is a brilliant pun which I am still kicking myself for not inventing. It refers to 3 senators who voted for "Francesco Marini" for president of the Senate, thus showing their votes were definitely needed for "Franco Marini" to be elected President of the Senate. A franco tiratore is a sniper, but the word is used for members of parliament who vote against their nominal allies with a secret ballot.

Oddly 3 is the number of senators of the UDEur, one of the fragments of the Christian Democratic party. One of those Senators, not to mention the head of the party, is the Clement Mastella. I'm afraid I will be writing about those three often and I'm afraid that I will call them the holy trinity.

They are, as demonstrated by the votes for Francesco Marini, necessary to the center left's majority in the Senate. After the election, Mastella demanded a ministry. He was outraged that his allies told him that, given the majority of 2 in the Senate (3 counting an independent) working in a ministry was inconsistent with being a senator. He actually complained that no one told him that before the election.

I am now more confident than before that the three Franceschi tiratori are the three UDEur Senators. There was an argument that the Center left could not make Mastella a Minister, because then he wouldn't be present in the Senate often enough and they would lose one critical vote. Somehow his allies were convinced that it was better to give him a ministry and lose one vote than to not give him a ministry and lose three. hmmm.

The ministry is interesting as the minister of justice has a unique position under the Italian constitution. All other ministers are expected to be collegial. The Minister of Justice, serving the cause of Truth and Justice, is not expected to follow the government line. On the other hand, the justice minister has little actual power because prosecutors, like judges, are magistrates independent from the executive. The odd role of the minister of justice can, perhaps, be understood by considering the first minister of justice of the Italian Republic, Palmiro Togliatti (who learned about due process in Moscow). He was part of a very very broad coalition which wrote the constitution and formed the first Republican government. Thus a role for him where he does not have to agree with non Communists but has little actual power. Thus also the tendency for the Italian Constitution to argue with itself (it tends to lose those arguments).

It is appropriate that Clement Mastella is presented as fitting into this coalition like the Communists fit into the post War coalition. Unfortunately the main role of the justice minister in practice has been to harass magistrates who are trying to prosecute politicians and advise the parliament on how to change the law in order to stop them (the justice minister in the first Prodi government refused to do this and was thus considered a colossal failure).

Mastella is ideally suited to the job of protecting slimeballs from justice. I consider his nomination to be a sign that the center left is seaking a justice truce with the opposition. Another hint might be the proposal to reject the first letter of resignation from Cesare Previti who will not be able to legislate full time, since he is under house arrest for bribing judges. The letter hasn't arrived as Previti refuses to resign, so counting on him to insist and send two resignation letters is ... like hoping that Mastella is now satisfied and will behave like a loyal ally.

Still could be worse. In Iraq political debates involve real Franchi Tiratori.

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