It is looking increasingly likely that the man who screwed an entire country, as the Economist put it, media magnate and former Italian Prime Minister and wearer of an eternal smile, Silvio Berlusconi is angling for another stint in the top spot in Italy.
Is Berlusconi is hoping to finish off what he started and ensure Italy’s is totally and utterly destroyed? A coup de grace?! Maybe part of his Machiavellian plan is to raise Italy to the ground so he can rise phoenix-like from the ashes as the new Mussolini? A rather terrifying prospect.
Allegations of sex with under-age prostitutes – the court case on this is in progress – as well as prosecutors who’d like Berlusconi to spend 3 years in prison for allegedly illicit business dealings, do not seem to have discouraged Silvio from having a go at re-election (or re-re-re-election).
Whether, of course, Italians will actually install the man who failed Italy and who was kicked out in disgrace remains to be seen. Certainly the younger Italians I know would not be at all happy to see Berlusconi’s Cheshire Cat smile appearing daily on Italy’s television screens once again.
Last time round, Berlusconi virtually sank Italy, and poor Mario Monti is now attempting to pick up the pieces. Some seem to be intent on preventing Monti from actually achieving this task. Coincidentally, members of the discredited Berlusconi led Italian government still have a say in how Italy is run. This does not bode very well when one considers the state they left Italy in.
Italians, in the meantime, are becoming poorer.
Berlusconi, no doubt, will be relishing Monti’s ever diminishing popularity. Also making Berlusconi chuckle will be Mario Monti’s attempts to convince the traditionally tax-shy Italians to pay their dues. Italians blame Monti, not Berlusconi, for their ever increasing poverty.
Watching Beppe Grillo
Oddly, because it is mainly what he did while he was in power, Italy’s ex-premier has not been twiddling his thumbs while Monti has been struggling to stick Italy back together. Oh no. Instead, the tanned-one has been noting the progress of activist comic Beppe Grillo’s fledgling political party and has been ripping off a few of Grillo’s ideas too.
Grillo, for example, is not overly happy with the Euro, hence his piece entitled Il Tabu del Euro. Grillo also appeals to moderate Italians. This may explain why Berlusconi recently announced that he wanted to lead a party of moderate and, in a bout of anti-Euro rhetoric, Berlusconi stated through his Facebook page that the thought of Italy leaving the Euro should not be blasphemous. Spot any similarity? So far, Berlusconi has not claimed he was joking, even if he did initially after announcing Italy should dump the Euro back in early June.
Silvio also suggested that Germany should be asked to dump the Euro. So far, he has not claimed he was joking.
It can be difficult to take the inconsistent Mr Berlusconi seriously, but he does have ever such a nice smile.
Berlusconi’s public appearances always appear to be contrived (Like his smile?). Silvio’s words are carefully chosen and reactions are carefully measured.
When a Berlusconi suggestion is ridiculed, the man himself jumps in to say he was joking. On the other hand, if the pill is swallowed, then this dictates the direction of the Berlusconi line.
The Berlusconi system, which is not dissimilar to market testing, is very clever, if a little sinister. Very, very few Italians realise that they are being cleverly manipulated.
The popularity of Berlusconi’s party, meanwhile, is continuing to slide and opinion polls indicate that Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement is now Italy’s second most popular political movement.
In the face of Berlusconi’s resurrection, what the future holds for his largely discredited PdL party is unclear.
Some members of the PdL do not appear to be overjoyed at the prospect of the re-emergence of Berlusconi and these disgruntled politicians may decide to go it alone and form some new political party. This new party, if it ever comes into existence, may ally itself with Berlusconi’s new political baby although knowing how unpredictable politics in Italy is, nobody will know until it actually happens.
There is something else which might happen and which might scupper Silvio Berlusconi’s renewed designs on power.
Mario Monti is trying to introduce anti-corruption legislation which would prevent those convicted of any serious crime from standing for election or from holding public office. If this legislation is ever passed and if Silvio Berlusconi is ever definitively convicted by a court in Italy, then Berlusconi will not be able to resurrect himself. It is highly likely that Berlusconi supporters and there are, perhaps surprisingly, still quite a number, will work to keep Monti’s anti-corruption laws from ever becoming reality.
Even if the laws are written into Italy’s law books, and the chances appear to be rather slim, convicting Silvio Berlusconi will not be at all easy. Italy’s slow, inconsistent, courts, combined with time barring provisions mean that convicting Berlusconi of anything will not be at all easy. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Berlusconi will, how can one put this, er, ‘befriend’ certain judges to ensure that decisions are favourable.
Those All-Forgiving Italians
As historian Professor Paul Ginsborg observed in his book Italy and its Discontents, Italians can be remarkably forgiving and many do think Silvio Berlusconi has a terribly nice smile. Appearance does tend to count for much more than substance in image conscious Italy, it has to be said.
The man with the appealing smile may well end up as Prime Minister of Italy once again. Merkel, Obama and a few others will be shuddering at the thought. Valdimir Putin, on the other hand, will throw a big party to celebrate his old friend’s success.
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