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The Berlusconi Effect

Trash in Naples, Italy

He’s done it again.  Once more Italy’s scandal ridden leader has managed to hold onto power in Italy by the skin of his teeth.  His decline is inexorable, inevitable, but Silvio Berlusconi is not at the end of the road just yet. Yesterday’s victory, albeit very slim, clearly demonstrated how deeply Berlusconi’s talons reach into the flesh of Italian politics and society.

Although he faced speeches from opposition politicians that were harshly critical and which would have provoked soul searching by those occupying seats in any other parliament in the world, in Italy, enough politicians believed the Berlusconi way is the only true way that they lent him their support once more.  And Italy is not a happy nation, as this article from yesterday’s Guardian shows: Riots break out in Rome after Silvio Berlusconi survives confidence votes

Yet despite national discontent, Berlusconi continues to be the only major force in Italian politics, even if that force has been tainted by accusations and evidence of self-interest and that is not to mention the now all but forgotten comment Berlusconi made before he entered politics some 16 years ago.  Berlusconi said that either he went into politics or he went to jail.  We all know the choice he made, and how he has been using his power to keep himself out of prison, and attack those who want to send him there.

That he remains the most prominent force in Italian politics today is testament not to his skills, which are not to be underestimated, but to the dubious reasons why Italians go into politics.  Very few want to help their country; what they want to do is to line their pockets and keep filling their bank accounts for as long as they possibly can.  Berlusconi’s win yesterday is evidence of this.

In the face of a wobbly economy, huge, and increasing, public debt, massive tax evasion, crumbling institutions, rocketing unemployment and a government leader who attempts to pass legislation to provide himself with the same level of power as a dictator; who has been described as ‘feckless and vain’ and is suspected of syphoning off sums from very private public business dealings with the likes of similarly scurrilous regimes such as those in Russia and Libya, and a man who seems to be provoking moral and social decline of epic proportions and laughing about it, the majority of Italy’s politicians voted to keep their leader where he is. Incredible is it not?

So why did they support the man once again? Well, let’s be extremely cynical for a moment.  Could it be that those who support Berlusconi are on the take?  Could also be that these people are afraid that if Berlusconi falls, then their illicit incomes will fall too, and they may well end up doing porridge?  Could it also be that Berlusconi has over the years, if not engineered such a situation, encouraged it and, most likely prospered from it?

Shares in Berlusconi family company Mediaset rocketed after Berlusconi won yesterday’s confidence vote, and this is despite reports via WikiLeaks that Berlusconi had manipulated internet legislation in Italy to give his family group companies a competitive advantage. And yet despite this massive conflict of interests, he continues to lead?

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Senior, world respected political scientists like James Walston believe Berlusconi has weakened democracy in Italy. He has certainly made Italy the butt of a good few jokes, and has damaged Italy’s public image no end. Young brains are leaving Italy by the boatload, and those that remain aspire to being ‘showgirls’ and Big Brother contestants.

But Italy’s politicians don’t seem to care, well, not enough of them.  Yes, there is a crisis, and yes, calling elections may not be a great idea for Italy, but leaving Berlusconi in place is a serious risk for the country too. Surely the time has come to let someone else take the reins?  Well, this time would have come long ago in other countries, but in Italy, which seems to be run by teams of ex-Berlusconi employees (who may be on the take), this is not going to happen any time soon.

One wonders whether Italy’s politicians know much about the concepts of honesty and integrity, or even understand that they are supposed to be representing the interests of their country, and not using it as a personal cash cow.

The Berlusconi effect is not good for Italy. The only thing which can save Italy now is a miracle, and new blood in Italian politics.  Is this going to happen?  No way – the vulture has too many friends, and is doing all he can to keep them as happy and as safe as he can, while Pompeii crumbles and Venice sinks.

Poor Italy – it does not have to be like this, but a certain tanned supremo has created an electorate who he can count on to put him back in the top spot – especially after he ‘reformed’ Italy’s electoral law to double his chances.

Democracy has become one huge con trick in Italy, but many Italians cannot or don’t want to see this.  What a country.

What’s that old adage? “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Well, if you need proof of this look no further than the Italy Berlusconi has created for himself.

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