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Italian Elections: Mah!

Apr
11
2006
Got my vote…

Two very useful words to learn in Italian are “boh” and “mah.” They aren’t exactly words, but the kind of interjections people use a lot in everyday speech.
“Boh” is the equivalent of the American “I dunno” or “uh-ah-uh;” whereas “mah!” is a little harder to translate but is something like, “who knows,” “well!” “we’ll see” and “I wonder” depending on the context.
Since election results started coming in at 3:30 p.m. yesterday, it’s been one long chorus of boh-ing and mah!-ing, accompanied by a lot of eye rolling and shoulder shrugging.
There’s good reason for it: the Italian electorate is nearly perfectly split in two – despite a record 84% turnout. Italians may well feel they should’ve voted for Fonzie or Homer Simpson, as satellite TV ads urged them to.


In the lower house, Romano Prodi’s center-left coalition won 49.8% of the vote, a blink-and-you-miscount victory over incumbent prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition share of 49.7%. Under the new election law, the winner would automatically snare 55% of the seats.
Berlusconi, however, may have taken the senate. By one whole seat.
And each chamber has equal weight.
Mah!
Without a clear majority, Italy seems destined to go back to the sort of revolving-door government (59 changes of leadership since WWII) that has made it something of a joke.
Now what? Will first-time votes from abroad change the tide? Recounts? Another round of elections?
Boh.
While waiting to see who will be the new prime minister, Italians are getting ready to say “addio” to President Ciampi, whose limited powers include appointing the new prime minister. Ciampi, whose term is up in May, did what he could (though without success) to block Berlusconi’s most self-serving media and justice reforms by refusing to sign the bills into laws. Beloved as he and wife Franca are, it is unlikely at age 86 he’ll be up for another seven-year term.
Mah.
It was easy to underestimate the appeal of Berlusca. Many people wanted him to go away. A lot of headlines in the foreign press were of the good-bye and good-riddance sort.
“The showman’s final act”, “Basta!”, “Italy ready to give up on its savior,” etc.
I should’ve guessed he wasn’t going away anytime soon on Friday night after stumbling on the Forza Italia party in front of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan.
Feeling invulnerable to persuasion because I can’t vote, I gladly had a glass or two of Prosecco from a plastic flute and nibbled on parmigiano while taking it all in.
Gadgets, from candy to packs of cards (I confess going home with pockets full, thinking about making a killing on Ebay after he lost) and a guy that may have been the singer from the Gypsy Kings hammering out “Volare” made for a general air of giddiness.
Walking towards the Duomo, there was a hoarse, little guy stumping for left group Rosa nel Pugno (just pins here) and in the square, a few waving flags while Lega Nord front man Umberto Bossi was being driven away in a green Volvo.
Mah.

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