Berlusconi is smarting at his virtual defeat in the first round of voting in the battle for the mayorship of his home town of Milan. He transformed the local election campaign into something approaching a referendum on his standing as a leader.
That referendum was a failure. Berlusconi only received half of the number of preference votes he got in the last local elections in Milan. This was a blow to him personally and a blow to his party too. What was his reaction?
Initially, silence. Berlusconi was obviously working out how to recover lost ground and plotting his comeback.
The unusual silence turned out to be the calm before the storm as on Friday 20th May, Berlusconi erupted onto Italy’s television screens in a series of party political broadcasts which were thinly disguised as interviews.
Italy was blessed with the appearance of Silvio Berlusconi sending out his oft repeated “we are the best, the opposition are a bunch of extreme lefties” message. The usual attacks on commie Italian judges were, oddly, absent, or perhaps I missed them.
The broadside of air-wave dominating Berlusconi broadcasts were followed by a secondary eruption. Those opposing Italy’s increasingly controversial leader yelled that Berlusconi’s overt exploitation of prime time television was “unfair”. They had a point.
As pointed out by Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, the statements made by Berlusconi in the plethora of prime time television interviews were laced with inaccuracies.
He claimed, for example, that more mosques would be built in Milan if it were to be conquered by the ‘extreme-left’. This is not correct – Berlusconi’s own party voted through legislation in Milan which made provisions for more mosques.
Berlusconi also claimed that the left would turn Milan into a haven for gypsies. Again, wrong – his own party passed legislation to create areas in Milan which gypsies could occupy legitimately.
In essence, Berlusconi was accusing the left of proposing to do what his people had already done! It could be argued that he was attempting to dissuade anyone from voting for his party.
And Berlusconi’s mass appearances on television may well have broken a par conducio law which was designed to prevent the exploitation of the power of television in the midst of electoral campaigns in Italy by those (read primarily Berlusconi) with the means to do so. Italy’s communications watchdog AGCOM is to examine the case today.
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
Good to see that Italy’s prime minister is setting a good example with regard to respecting the laws of Italy.
Berlusconi’s Fans Unhappy too
One of Berlusconi’s most stalwart supporters, Giuliano Ferrara, has labelled Italy’s prime minister’s staged interviews an own goal in an article which appeared in the Berlusconi family daily – Il Giornale. Roman Catholic paper, Avvenire, was also critical of Berlusconi’s mass appearance on television last Friday.
The Same, Old Same Old
Adverts are all very well, but if they don’t vary their message from one year to the next, they tend to end up being ignored, as anyone involved in marketing knows full well.
Berlusconi’s repetitive and oft fantastic rhetoric is likely to be doing the image of his already battered party even more harm.
That Milan’s population leaned to the (centre, not extreme) left in recent elections indicates that the same old messages, transmitted via the same old means, are unlikely to convince Italians to vote for him or those who are closely associated with him. Indeed, by shouting louder and longer, he is more likely to convince Italy’s voters that the time has come to consider giving an alternative to Berlusconi a chance. Italians, it seems, are becoming wise to Berlusconi’s predictable and repetitive media saturation tactics, and there are signs, at long last, that Italian’s are tiring of this approach.
Berlusconi was voted into power because he was seen as an alternative, but Italy has not got better since he sat on the prime ministerial throne. Although he’s been in power for nearly 10 years now, Italy, if anything some would argue, has got worse. There are other worrying signs too.
Transparency International‘s Corruption Perception Index shows that Italy is becoming ever more corrupt and in 2010 the Bel Paese languished at 67, which is well below countries such as Namibia (56) and is one place above Georgia. Greece, which is in terrible trouble economically, sits at position 78 with a ‘corruption’ rating of 3.5 to Italy’s 3.9. The least corrupt country in the world in 2010 was Denmark, with a score of 9.5.
Some may be wondering whether Berlusconi’s Italy may end up being the next Greece, and the very recent S&P rating change for Italy will no doubt fuel their suspicions.
Standard and Poor’s, the credit rating agency, reduced Italy’s outlook for the future from stable to negative on the same day as the Berlusconi blanket broadcast. On the lowering of Italy’s rating, S&P commented:
“In our view Italy’s current growth prospects are weak, and the political commitment for productivity-enhancing reforms appears to be faltering, and potential political gridlock could contribute to fiscal slippage,” – source S&P press release.
Effectively, Standard and Poor’s is saying the Berlusconi alternative is failing.
It is likely that Italy’s RAI state television channels which broadcast Berlusconi’s beware the ‘extreme’ left interviews will cause the channels concerned to be fined by Italy’s AGCOM communications watchdog as a result of their having broken the par conducio laws which restrict transmissions of a political nature while electoral campaigns are in progress.
Guess who will pay these fines? Why Italy’s taxpayers! Nice one Silvio.