As the College of Cardinals prepares to gather in the Eternal City for their solemn deliberations and the Vatican press office hints at possible last minute changes to the laws governing Sede Vacante, across the Tiber there is another change of Government to be examined. The secular state of ‘Italy’ is currently preparing to hold ‘elections’, and with the return of Silvio Burlesqueoni to the contest it is sure to make for entertaining viewing.
In deference to those whose education was light on the classics, I shall offer a brief resumé of electoral tradition in Rome as a window into current events.
In the glorious days of ancient Rome, the inhabitants of the city, known as ‘citizens’, were organised into geographical constituencies for the systematic distribution of bribes by candidates for public office.
The Senate, which was unelected, functioned as a venue for the coquettishly dressed, metrosexual elite to sit among their peers and read poetry aloud, analogous to our modern Starbucks Coffee shops.
From time to time, retired war heroes, scions of the nobility and winners of a gladiatorial version of Strictly Come Dancing would walk through the streets of Rome attempting to incite riots. The two most successful at this were proclaimed ‘consuls’. The function of the dual-consulship was to ensure administrative paralysis.
Government existed mostly in the form the generals of Rome’s legions of well trained and expertly marshalled soldiers. These were perpetually marched backward and forward across the French to pick fights with the Germans, popping home from time to time to proclaim themselves Supreme Dictator for Life.
Despite the haphazard nature of Government, ancient Rome gave birth to some of the greatest works of literature, architecture and philosophy known to man. Following the decline of the Western Empire, custody of the city passed to the Church, which lovingly preserved the treasures which formed her temporal patrimony.
Modern ‘Italy’ was founded in the late 19th century by a swarthy Lombard freemason named Garibaldi. He, like many modern Italians, was out of work and swanning about Europe with a large pair of sunglasses perched on his head. Through the improbable tightness of his trousers, he persuaded the wives of many an important man to subscribe large sums for him to raise an army to march on Rome.
Today, ‘Italy’ has what we in the trade call a perfectly bicameral system of proportional representation. This means that two legislative bodies, with identical and mutually nullifying powers, are ‘elected’ by a complicated combination of sexual harassment, gerrymandering and Buggin’s turn.
The business of Government is handled by the Prime Minister, also called the President of the Council of Ministers. While often said to be seeking election, candidates for this position are appointed solely by the ‘President of the Italian Republic’; a shadowy figure who, while traditionally unnameable by Italians, is widely believed abroad to be German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
With these details at their fingertips, it is hoped that members and friends will be able to enjoy an informed view of the proceedings.