The Italian Mind

Reflections from the Boot

(If) Silvio Strikes Back


In one of the hottest Italian summers, the air becomes even thicker when it comes to politics. A few months after Mario Monti replaced Silvio Berlusconi as the Italian Prime Minister, the latter has announced he will run for 2013 elections as the leader of the People of Freedom, the multifaceted and multi-faction conservative alliance he has been leading for almost two decades with mixed results.
Long waited by a large share of his supporters, the announcement caused significant turmoil in many environments, including political, financial and industrial control rooms. For many, Berlusconi is the only one to blame for Italy’s current financial and economic situation. The public opinion sees him as a slow and mediocre statesman, whose reasoning skills become very quick and clever whenever his personal interests are at stake. This includes ad hoc laws passed by the Parliament, in fact by the parliamentary majority he was leading at the time, to ease Berlusconi’s position in the many judicial proceedings against him or to benefit selected industrial targets. Needless to say, Mediaset – the media and showbiz network he has built in over 40 years – is among these.
In the political arena, the leaders of the opposing parties, Pierferdinando Casini of the Christian Democratic Union and Pier Luigi Bersani of the Democratic Party above all, referred to the possibility that Berlusconi runs again for the Prime Minister’s chair with expressions like ‘horror movie’, or adjectives like ‘creeping’ or ‘blood-curdling’.
Apart from these considerations, which may be part of the usual and mutual discrediting attacks politicians are very well used to, no one seems to consider the most important factors in elections, i.e. voters. The feelings in the two major movements on the Italian landscape and among those who will poll their preferences are still very different. Centre-left and centre-right parties and respective followers have opposite predictions about the outcome of elections. After recent surveys have revealed Berlusconi’s party has reached an all-time low in preferences, Silvio now says his coalition can collect 28% of votes with him at the helm; indeed a very optimistic forecast. Conversely, Bersani & Co. see a darker future, predicting he will obtain nothing more than 12% of overall votes.
Politics as a whole is a largely unpopular subject in Italy at the moment. The economic crisis and the unchanged span of privileges politicians continue to enjoy based on laws and regulations they themselves approve make this job not very respected and increasingly distant from the concepts of community service and public good Aristotle envisioned in ‘Politics’.
The unresolved issue is if and how Berlusconi will persuade his followers, his political opponents, and those who sit in-between that he is changed and that electing him again can make a difference, if not for Italy, for Italians at least. The common people seems to have no preference for one politician or the other as ‘they’re all thieves’, a quite common refrain you can hear here and there across the entire boot, and the main reason why newly formed populist movements – like the 5 Star Movement, led by former comic actor Beppe Grillo – obtained lots of votes during the last administrative elections a few weeks ago. ‘Politics made by people, not politicians’ is one of the slogans of a group of people who wants to bring political power back into the hands of ordinary citizens. Quite an interesting exercise of direct democracy but perhaps a reckless choice when it comes at striking the right balance between what you want and what you can actually obtain. That is a professional politicians’ job, not something you would live in the hands of a newbie.
The fact that Silvio Berlusconi wants to be called again to impersonate that professional, well, is another story…

– Posted by Jerald using BlogPress for iPad

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