Has Silvio Berlusconi Ruined Italy Forever?
11/12/2012 1 comentario
History repeats itself first as tragedy, then as farce, Karl Marx once wrote. What then to make of the possibility that Italy’s disgraced and discredited former leader Mr. Silvio Berlusconi has announced he will undertake his sixth election campaign in hopes of becoming the prime minister for a fourth time? In Berlusconi’s case, tragedy and farce were both present at his astonishing entrance onto political scene in 1994, and both have grown since then in equal measure. Farcical elements reached legendary heights by the accumulation of Silvio Berlusconi’s off-color remarks, diplomatic disasters, facelifts and hair transplants, sexual escapades, seamy legal problems. At the same time, full tragedy of Berlusconi’s political legacy has also become increasingly apparent: A major European country has been effectively paralyzed for nearly twenty years by its richest citizen. Berlusconi has proven remarkably incapable of governing Italy, but extremely capable of preventing Italy from being governed by anybody else. Foreigners may be surprised by Berlusconi’s comeback, especially considering his ignonimous exit from office last December, in which international credit markets and his European colleagues essentially declared they had no confidence in his leadership, leaving Italy on brink of bankrupcy. But what they fail to understand is that the reason Berlusconi is now “back” is that he never actually left. While he stepped down as prime minister last December and was replaced by economist Mario Monti, Berlusconi’s “People of Liberty” party is still largest in parliament; Monti’s technocratic government has only stayed in power as long as it has thanks to tacit support of Berlusconi’s center right majority. Berlusconi has been playing a double game the entire time, supporting Monti government in parliament, while his own media empire attacked Mario Monti at every step. It was all just an effort to buy some time, in hopes that the memory of Berlusconi’s own failures would fade as public grew unhappy with Monti’s austerity programs. To some extent, things have gone according to plan: Italians are not pleased with country’s struggling economy. Still, few Italians want Berlusconi to return as prime minister. Many of moderate voters who had once genuinely saw him as a possible agent of change, the entrepreneur who would shake up politics, man who was “too rich to bribe”, have since seen too much evidence of Berlusconi’s boundless egotism. In announcing his run last week, he didn’t even bother to frame his ambitions in terms of the national interest. Berlusconi explained that his market research showed that without him, his party, People of Liberty, would only get about eight percent of the vote, but with him, would obtain a respectable 28%. (Independent polls actually show his party obtaining about 15%, less than half of what it had received in 2008 but possibly enough because of Italy’s proportional electoral system to give Berlusconi important bargaining power in forming a new government.) “If we were to fall to 8%,” he asked, “what would have been the point of eighteen years of political life?” In this intuition, Berlusconi is absolutely correct: In his eighteen years of political life, he has built nothing solid, nothing lasting. He has created purely personal party, built with his money, media power, personal charisma. The narcissistic cult of personality he has created, election campaigns in which he was often the only face you could see on his party posters; an election whose anthem was “Thank God, there’s Silvio!”, has meant that there has never been space for any other secondary figures to develop a national following, challenge Berlusconi’s leadership, or give his party a platform beyond its leader’s personality (…..)