10 April, 2006

Stupid count

As I write, nobody knows for certain who has won the Italian General Election. Hours earlier, however, I was being buoyed by how the exit polls were predicting a close but decisive win for Romano Prodi. As a gesture of relief, I had chosen to make the story the lead item on the website for which I work, proudly heading the homepage with the declaration Prodi Set For Italian Election Win. All through the afternoon reports compounded the impression that part-time media magnate and full-time crook (fact!) Silvio Berlusconi was on the way out. Even on the way home I comforted myself with the thought that, despite it being a Monday and despite me not getting away from the office until gone 6.30pm - again - the day hadn't been all bad.

That was until I tuned back into the news earlier on this evening and found my previous assumptions starkly and unfairly challenged. Now nobody seems to know what's going on. There's talk of Berlusconi clining on, of his party still holding power, of deals being done, of expectations being confounded. The final count is still going on.

I feel cheated and misled. I feel like I've just been made a personal and professional fool of. And I feel like I did back in 2004 when I went to bed convinced John Kerry had won the White House off George W. Bush, only to wake up and find he'd thrown it away. Just like I felt back in 2000 when I went to bed certain Al Gore had won the White House instead of George W. Bush. Just like I felt back in 1992 when I went into the night convinced Labour were finally, at long last, destined to defeat the Tories - only to come out of the night wondering if there was ever going to be a change of Government in Britain again.

I hate seeing people I like, or rather political parties I support, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It seems to be a particular predeliction of parties from the left; very rarely do right-wing organisations unexpectedly lose elections, preferring to go down in a blaze of recrimination and revulsion (certainly true in this country: see 1997, 1974, 1964 and 1945). The left, alternatively, can't help but repeat the old trick of getting everyone's hopes up then dashing them, collectively (as befitting the left) and stupidly, at the very last minute.

If ever there was a European country at present more suited to an easy shoo-in for the left it is Italy: zero economic growth, corruption rife in the offices of state, an ostensibly widespread belief that a fresh start was needed, and a deeply discredited ruling elite. But then if there was ever a chance for the left to blow another chance for taking power, it is always the next election round the corner. And the one after that.

Maybe by the time I finish writing these words I'll have been proved wrong. It's more likely that by the time you'll have finished reading them I'll have been soundly, depressingly, proved right.


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