Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Italian elections

This Sunday the Italians return to the polling booth for the second time in two years. Silvio Berlusconi is running for the fifth time. This time, "he really seems to have broken loose from all restraints", writes Giovanni Parisi from Italy.

In less than a week Italian people will be called to vote for the new Parliament and Government after about two years of Mr. Prodi’s power.

The characters and the subjects of this electoral campaign are very similar to those of the other European countries. We have two main parties, a left-wing and a right-wing, and several other minor parties, usually called “midgets”. The political debate is about the issues that worry all continental societies: economic growth, tax reduction, salary, security, crime, immigration.
However, the peculiarities of the Italian way are not less than the resemblances with other countries.

First and foremost, there is a huge anomaly called Silvio Berlusconi. Head of the “Popolo delle Libertà”, the richest person in the country (€ 139.245.570 income declared), owner of private TVs and newspapers, president of the most successful football team in the world, inveterate playboy despite his 71 years of age, amazingly Mr. Berlusconi still manages to attract a lot of people thanks to his charisma and impudence. In this electoral campaign he really seems to have broken loose from all restraints. In the first meeting with his supporters he tore up the electoral program of the Democratic Party. After that he declared himself worried about the possibility of electoral fraud by his opponents. During a TV interview, when a young unemployed girl asked for his opinion about the lack of stability in jobs, he suggested that she should marry his son or other rich boys like him. Berlusconi’s disdain for the basic rules of fairness in the electoral campaign is well-known, while his never-ending boasts still surprise any reasonable person!

On the other front, the new centre-left Italian Democratic Party is adopting a totally different strategy. Its leader, Walter Veltroni, is having a very serious approach towards voters, trying to focus on his manifesto rather than on unhelpful bickering with Berlusconi. And, believe me, this behaviour in Italy is so unusual! First of all, his choice to “walk alone”, severing the alliance with the communist party, clearly shows his willingness not to compromise with anybody about the contents of his program. His plan is very pragmatic: any ideological approach to the problems is wiped out. He confirmed his intention to keep the Italian troops in Afghanistan while being very critical of Bush’s war in Iraq. As regards internal issues, he advocates tax reduction for small and medium-sized companies in order to help them develop and to boost the economy. At the same time he maintains that salary increases must be promoted and job casualisation eradicated! Challenging commitments, no doubt. What is really astonishing is that, more or less, PDL’s political plan seems to be quite the same, at least as far as internal matters go. Aside from a manifesto about the dangers of communism and an enumeration of Berlusconi’s merits as a politician, basically PDL's core voters agree with PD about the actions to be taken in order to solve Italy’s everlasting problems. So, it’s not as if Italian electors were going to choose among different programs as it should be in a mature democracy: it will be just a matter of trust in the candidates.

In this respect Veltroni could have an edge on Berlusconi thanks to his good management of the city of Rome (he has been Mayor since 2001) and his transparent past as a politician. A very significant act of his electoral campaign took place in Sicily where he clearly took a stand against mafia and camorra. Addressing Mafiosi, he said: “Please, do not vote for us. We do not want your votes!” He’s been the only candidate to speak like that. We know that the votes connected to mafia are in the thousands and, in a very uncertain situation, may be crucial for the election results…And Berlusconi didn’t say a word about that…

(Giovanni Parisi)


Stan Moss said...

What I can't get my head round is that in any other country once the leader of a political party lose the elections they just step out of the way.

Which is why the Tories tallied about 45 leaders in 10 years.

That Berlusconi chap, what the hell is he still doing there???
Hasn't it got enough dough to retire gracefully? Flowers to water?

Anonymous said...

Cerca lavoro, Santoro cerca lavoro!