It's Machiavellian still:
The vote that Mr. Prodi's government lost was actually on a proposal to leave 1,900 Italian troops in Afghanistan until 2011 and to double the size of an American military base outside Vicenza. Both projects are very unpopular in Italy, but they were part of the deal that created the nine-party coalition behind Mr. Prodi's government, and only two senators from the far left defected in the key vote on Feb. 21.
The government would still have won the vote if senator-for-life Giulio Andreotti had not unexpectedly voted against it. But the 87-year-old Andreotti, seven times prime minister and often known as the "Prince of Darkness," is a strong supporter of NATO and the American alliance, so why would he vote against that bill? Because it was going to be so close that his surprise "no" vote could bring Mr. Prodi's government down.
Why would he want to do that? Mr. Andreotti has always been very close to both the Catholic Church and the Mafia, but on this occasion it was the former tie that mattered. The Vatican wanted to kill the "civil union" proposal, which required killing Mr. Prodi's government. Mr. Andreotti just seized the opportunity that presented itself. It worked, too. A week later Mr. Prodi managed to revive his coalition government, but this time their agreed program does not include the "civil union" project.
Most Italians would agree that there is something wrong with their country, but it's not the Church that bothers them. The stagnant economy makes matters worse - even Spain will overtake Italy in per capita income in a couple of years - but there is an underlying sense of frustration that permeates Italian life.