Tickets for the opera, anyone?The 'follow the money' scenario is once again preeminent in Italy. The EU banking ecosphere is agog the No victory will make it even harder to rescue Siena’s Monte dei Paschi – the oldest bank in the world and currently Italy’s third-largest; it badly needs to raise €5 billion of equity and sell off €28 billion in bad loans. In fact, virtually the whole Italian banking system is on the ropes, needing a rescue package of at least €40 billion. Italy is paying JP Morgan to come up with a solution. European Central Bank (ECB) Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny, who’s also the head of Austria’s central bank, insists Italy might have to spend a lot of public money for the rescue. This will be considered toxic by most Italian voters. Couple the banking crisis with the fact Italy’s industrial output may be as much as 10 percent smaller than it was ten years ago. And unemployment – at a hefty 13 percent - is roughly double than it was before the 2008 financial crisis. What’s immediately ahead is, what else, a political crisis, although containable. President Sergio Mattarella, elected only last year, must oversee the formation of a new government. The Five Star Movement and the Lega Nord are already calling for immediate elections. A look at the major players jockeying for position in the new government sweepstakes is not exactly uplifting. They are: Renzi (Democratic Party); Silvio 'bunga bunga' Berlusconi (Forza Italia); Beppe Grillo (Five Star Movement); and Matteo Salvini (Lega Nord). If these signori don’t agree on anything, there could be a snap election soon. Grillo’s Five Star want an election so badly because it will be held under the new electoral laws before it’s all changed back to the good old proportionate system. Expect a lot of (figurative) blood on the Colosseum before any solution. As the EU observes, in thrall, the bottom line is that Italy is not anywhere near a referendum to leave the eurozone, not to mention the EU, as most Italians are Europhiles (except when it comes to the German domination of the ECB). The next elections, whenever they take place, will feature a battle of three political formations: the anti-elite Five Star Movement; Renzi’s Democratic Party – now in a shambles; and the center-right (Berlusconi) probably aligned with the Lega. Any of these three, but mostly the Five Star, stand a chance to win. So Italy is now firmly concentrated on trying to get a new – functional – government, not abandon the euro. But that still entails a fascinating sub-plot; none other than Angela Merkel will have to step up and lend a hand to “save” the EU by saving the future of Renzi’s Democratic Party. Now that’s what an opera buffa is all about.
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Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015. RT