Government in trouble

Once again, the country of my birth is deep in political crisis.

Italy's Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, lost a vote of confidence on Thursday and the government fell. It was the 61st government since the end of the Second World War. If there's one certainty about the political system, it's that it's perpetually unstable. In this current crisis, Italian politicians realize the country faces substantive economic and political problems, and the divisions among the parties and government coalitions indicate that politicians are deeply divided about what to do. Consultations with Italy's president, the country's head of state, are continuing this weekend in an effort to plot a path forward. Another general election, or some type of caretaker government, are distinct possibilities.

Italy's image on the world stage has taken a beating since before Christmas, when piles of garbage started growing in the streets of Naples and the surrounding area. Garbage collectors went on strike when landfills reached capacity. Residents have supported the collectors, and are living with huge piles of unsanitary and malodorous refuse on city streets. They say the landfills have been used as dumping grounds for toxic waste, creating big health concerns, and want someone to clean up local administrations that have been influenced by mafia-controlled disposal companies.

The country desperately needs political reform, but with no single party able to hold a majority and no clear consensus, the political climate will remain turbulent for some time. Meanwhile, Italians get by on personal initiative and making the most of their connections.

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