Sorry for the lack of updates, but there just haven't been many interesting developments to note as of late. But today had some big news!
Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister of Italy, has resigned. The move came following a narrow vote of no-confidence in the Italian Senate, in which Mr. Prodi's coalition only holds a one vote majority.
With all the focus on Iraq, it's easy to forget that there is also a war going on in Afghanistan. In part due to this lack of attention, and the diversion of much American resources, NATO forces in Afghanistan are now stretched quite thin. The remaining western generals in the country- Canadians key among them- have been demanding the rest of NATO start pulling its weight, and either expand or consolidate its military commitments to fighting the Taliban.
Signor Prodi was sympathetic, and thus tried to pass a bill that would keep the over 1,000 Italian troops currently stationed in Afghanistan in that country for another year. But Prodi is also a leftist, and his socialist buddies in parliament are strongly anti-American and anti-military, and don't want Italians fighting any longer in what they perceive to be an American war. So a couple of them voted against him in the senate, rejecting his extension proposal. And under the Italian system, which seems designed to insure as little political stability as possible, any time the Prime Minister loses a vote in the parliament that constitutes a breech of parliamentary confidence and either forces him out of office or forces new elections.
The referee is the President of Italy, who gets to decide which of the two paths to pursue. The current President is named Giorgio Napolitano. He used to be a leading member of Italy's infamously pro-Soviet Communist Party, before it was dissolved following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. He was appointed by parliament in 2006, by Prodi's people. One thus assumes that he will make whatever decision is in the best interests of the Italian left.
Prime Minister Prodi has been in office for nine months; he was elected in May, beating longtime PM Silvio Berlusconi.
Italian politics have a reputation for being comically chaotic, and the Prime Minister's Office is often joked about having a revolving door. Berlusconi was the first Italian PM in almost 20 years to serve more than three years in office; he was the first PM in 38 years to serve over four. The last PM to achieve that milestone was Aldo Moro in 1968. (Prime Minister Moro was later taken hostage and assassinated by Communist terrorists. It's just an interesting story, you should look it up sometime.)
Because their time in office is so short, an Italian prime minister's political career rarely ends once he leaves office. It's actually quite common for ex-PMs to regain the prime ministership if they just hang around long enough. Prodi was previously PM from '96 to '98, and now it's looking possible that Giuliano Amato, a fomer two-time socialist PM, will replace him in '07.
A while back I made a complete chart of post-war Prime Ministers of Italy for reference. As you can see, there have been 39 PMs since 1945, which is roughly one every 1.5 years. The media will often throw the phrase "62 governments" around, which makes Italy look even less stable. But a government is different than a Prime Ministership. One Prime Minister can preside over several different "governments" during his term; a "government" in this sense simply refers to a parliamentary coalition and cabinet. Berlusconi was the first PM since Mussolini to only go through one government.