by Ray Fleming

W hen Silvio Berlusconi took the hint in 2011 that his presence at the heart of the Italian government was not helpful to his country few people would have predicted that he might return within a couple of years. True, he had shown his staying power in four periods as prime minister, but surely that was enough. However, at the Italian elections this weekend Berlusconi's right wing Freedom of People party and its Northern League partners have a chance of forming his fifth administration. In Italy opinion polls are banned for the last ten days of an election so the picture is not clear but in the final published polls Berlusconi was catching up on the leftist Partido Democratico led by Luigo Bersani which had been in front since campaigning began. In November 2011 Mariano Monti, an economist and former diplomat, was made Santor-for-life and invited to form a non-political government of technocrats -- an idea that has found favour in many countries disillusioned by politicians. Sr Monti is leading a centrist coalition in the election but at the final polling had only 15 per cent support -- about the same as the comedian Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement which is thought to have made considerable progress since then. A coalition between the Partido Democratico and Mariano Monti is what most of the rest of the European Union will be hoping for.