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Berlusconi to resign. Thank goodness. PDF Print E-mail
Nov 10, 2011 at 12:13 AM


Silvio Berlusconi will be resigning this weekend, a decision that was announced Tuesday evening after he met with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano who fortunately was able to convince the Italian premier that the country was - is - on the brink of a financial abyss.

Berlusconi is a total narcissist, and for all we know may even be able to convince himself in the coming days that he is not to blame. But narcissists do not take humiliation well and he has been roundly humiliated by the rout suffered by Italian treasury bonds today and yesterday and its impact on the world's stock markets. It wouldn't surprise me if he were to sink into a deep depression, once he realizes that despite all his dreams of grandeur, he is likely to end up in history books as the man who almost brought this wonderful country called Italy to its knees.

Berlusconi and Putin fiddle while Rome does burn. PDF Print E-mail
Oct 10, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Good buddies!
Corriere della Sera is Italy's major newspaper and to my mind the country's most objective newspaper. Being an Italian newspaper, it does, of course, do things quite differently from the kind of Anglo-Saxon journalism which I prefer. But most observers would give it relatively high marks in a context where objectivity is often in short supply. So last Friday's lead editorial was quite significant.

Signed by one of the paper's best known international commentators, Franco Venturini, someone I have known for decades, it strongly criticized Silvio Berlusconi for one of his latest controversial escapades: leaving the country in the midst of this country's ongoing economic/financial crisis and the political infighting that has reached new heights (or, if you prefer, new lows) to fly to Moscow for Russian president Vladimir Putin's 59th birthday party.

Venturini attributes Berlusconi's Russia trip not to the Italian leader's interest in new diplomatic moves but in general weariness with things Italian and a desire to take a break from the difficult Italian financial situation and his growing number of domestic critics. Indeed, on the eve of his trip, in a video in which he tries to convince Italians that after him, le deluge, Berlusconi says that heading the Italian government has become a real "burden" for him, a huge personal sacrifice, that he'd love to free himself from if only the country didn't need him so much etc. etc. etc.

It really would be interesting to know just what the majority of Italians now think, but we do know that members of his own party - (the one he recently joked should be renamed "Go Pussy", as in the female sex organ) - are getting restive and over the last few days a small group of former supporters hs started asking him "to take a step backwards", a polite Italian way of saying he should resign.

Venturini, at any rate, has no problem in expressing his (and Corriere's) opinion that when it comes to foreign policy, Berlusconi is not doing much for his countrymen. He has left the sticky Libyan situation to be managed by French president Sarkozy and British prime minister, David Cameron. German chancellor Angela Merkel and Sarkozy are the activists in the search for a Eurobond solution. Berlusconi is not doing or saying anything helpful with regard to the Middle East. He has put off a top bilateral meeting with Serbian leaders several times. And he clearly went to Moscow either to have fun or to have his ego stroked (Putin in the only major world leader who says good things publically about Belusconi) and not, as might have been the case for someone else, to chastise the Russian for making it clear that his return to the Russian Presidency next year after a four-year hiatus, is somehow a foregone conclusion (there is supposed to be an election)), nor to challenge him on his recent veto in the UN security council against Syria sanctions.

Venturini is worried, too, that at the next EU or G20 meetings, Berlusconi will once again devote his public speaking time not to addressing serious problems but to declaring himself a victim of Italy's magistrates as he did to the great embarrassment of many people here, at Deauville earlier this year. "Such behaviour, Mr. Prime Minister, would not only damage our foreign policy", he wrote. It would further reduce the credibility which we so dearly need to support the euro and keep Italy from becoming another Greece. Unless, that is, Italy is planning to join the ruble area."

Editorial: a country adrift PDF Print E-mail
Sep 06, 2011 at 09:02 PM

No Comment

I haven't been updating my blog much over the last month or so; too much work of the paid variety, some vacation (stay tuned for a report on the beautiful Aeolian islands, off Sicily) and quite a bit of boredom where it comes to things Italian. I mean, how many pieces can one write about Silvio Berlusconi and the damage he is doing to his country? About scandals involving him and about his government's ongoing failure to take serious measures regarding Italy's economic problems? But somethings cannot be ignored and one of these is the fact that this country's politicians seem unable or unwilling (the picture on this page shows the Senate in early August when parliament was reconvened to consider a package of emergency measures to deal with Italy's debt crisis ---11 senators out of 300 showed up!) to do their job: make effective and incisive laws to deal with present and future crises.

Another chink in the wall! PDF Print E-mail
Jun 14, 2011 at 03:53 PM

A Blow to the Heart (Quorum/Cuore)
Italian voters delivered yet another blow to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi this weekend when they disregarded his advice to boycott a series of popular referenda designed to overturn several recent controversial laws. There is not expected to be any immediate direct effect on Mr. Berlusconi's stay in office, but the outcome - it was the first time since 1996 that enough people went to the polls to meet the 50% quorum that would make the referenda valid - makes it clear that much of the country is now on a different wave length from its chief of government.

The unexpected rout - many here believed the quorum would not be met - came hard on the heals of the defeat suffered by Berlusconi and his party in elections only two weeks ago for the mayors of several key cities including Milan and Naples. Observers here are convinced that Berlusconi's grip has been seriously weakened and wonder if he will soon face a defection by the unfortunately powerful Northern League, his principal ally.

The final results as they came in on Monday (Italian elections are always held on Sunday and Mondays) mean that voters have voters overturned a law that would have restarted Italy's nuclear program (nipped in the bud by another referendum 24 years ago but recently re-introduced by the Berlusconi government, one which permitted the privatization of local water supplies, and another that granted him and other high-ranking government officials immunity from prosecution.

This latter  means that Berlusconi ought now not to be able to avoid showing up in several pending court cases, including that in which he is charged with having sex with a minor and then abusing his office to get her released from jail when she was arrested on a theft charge.

But most pundits - along with Italy's opposition parties - are putting most of the emphasis on the fact that so many Italians disregarded a publicly announced decision by both Berlusconi and many of his top cabinet members that they would not be going to the polls. Of those who voted, between 94 and 95.5% voted to abrogate the laws, that is, they voted against Berlusconi and his government. (Dare I say it again? "Yippee!")


YIPPEE!!!! PDF Print E-mail
May 30, 2011 at 10:09 PM

Mayor Giuiano Pisapia
Mayor Luigi De Magistris

Now if I were still writing for a daily newspaper, I would never be able to start a piece saying "yippee". But that's the advantage of having a blog, or a "newsblog", as I like to think of Stranitalia. So YIPPEE! The voters who went to the polls in yesterday's run-off elections in four major Italian cities gave a resounding "no" to premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Here are the results: In Milan, radical chic leftish lawyer, Giuliano Pisapia, defeated incumbent mayor Letizia Moratti with 55.1% to 44.9%. In Naples, former magistrate Luigi De Magistris, running on the ticket of the Italia of Values (but supported by the mainstream left-of-center PD in the second round) soundly trounced the Berlusconi candidate,Gianni Lettieri, wth a striking 65.4. In Trieste, a PD candidate, became the city's new mayor with 57.5 of the vote. And in Sardinia, the city of Cagliari elected a young PD exponent as mayor with 59.4 percent of the vote.

The Milan vote was by far the most significant, since Berlusconi, who is Milanese (and also the owner of the Milan football team which won this year's championship, had turned the campaign into a popularity contest for himself, not the mayor. He probably was forewarned since in the first round of elections two weeks ago he had received only 23,000 preferential votes compared to the 55,000 he received five years ago when, as this time round, he had headed the list of candidates for the city council. But it is still a stunning blow for a man who appeared to believe that his mandate to rule this country was a permanent one.

In Naples the vote was an overwhelming success for the antu-Berlusconi opposition, even if the PD was unable to elect its own candidate. Almost everyone agrees that Naples' current problems (garbage and camorra) were worsened by almost a decade of PD rule at both the city and regional level, and yet Berlusconi's party, the PdL, was unable to capitalize on this.

It is too soon to say what affect this will have on the national political scene here. One fact that does not bode well for the PD is that in the two larg metropoli, voters preferred maverick candidates to people on the PD's slate. Even more significantly, today's result certainly mean that Berlusconi, already weakened by problems within his coalition (not to mention his own judicial worries), is going to find the coming months very tough going. Watch this space and, in the meantime, "YIPPEE"!!

With Bated Breath..... PDF Print E-mail
May 28, 2011 at 10:51 PM

Milan Mayor Moratti after voting on Sunday

That is how the Italians who are praying for the end of the Berlusconi era are feeling this morning as their compatriots go to the polls for run-off local elections in Milan, where the incumbent mayor is expected to have a hard-time getting re-elected, and in Naples, where a left-wing candidate and former prosecutor is facing down the candidate representing the PdL, the increasingly wobbly "People of Freedom", Berlusconi-led coalition.

The controversial Italian premier has said that even if both Giuliano Pisapia, in Milan, and Luigi de Magistris in Naples, are victorious nothing will change on the national level where a new vote is not scheduled until 2013. But should one or both of the opposition candidates prevail, especially Mr. Pisapia in Milan, it could be the beginning of a new era in Italian politics.


Relief for Lampedusa but not for Italy’s immigrant problems PDF Print E-mail
Apr 03, 2011 at 09:48 AM

Tunisians fleeing Italian tent camp in Puglia
Is relief in sight for this rocky, rather arid Sicilian island where the ancient Romans once manufactured garum, their prized fish sauce, and which in recent weeks has literally come under siege? Weather permitting, so it would seem. At the beginning of last week, as many as 6000 immigrants from Northern Africa had invaded an island which has a resident population of only 4,500 people (and which has accommodations for only 1200 immigrants) but which - at only 70 miles from the Tunisian coast - is the closest European outpost. But plans put in motion by Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, should leave the island immigrant-free by the end of this weekend or, at best, tomorrow.

Italy, a divided country, celebrates 150 years of unity. PDF Print E-mail
Mar 20, 2011 at 12:25 PM
Image So there were fireworks, fighter jet planes leaving tri-color streaks across the skies, a solemn ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Piazza Venezia, impassioned speeches by Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, sound and light shows, exhibitions - and even, at least in here in the capital - a smattering of flags displayed from Roman windows.

And then there was a lot of bickering, a lot of harsh words, with most MPs and other officials from the periodically autonomist Northern League party boycotting the celebrations. Not to mention the opponents of Silvio Berlusconi who chorused "resign, resign" while the prime minister, for once keeping a low profile, accompanied the 85-year old Napolitano on the various stops of this past Thursday's celebrations. Celebrations, it must be admitted, that were just a teeny bit forced and which for many Italians was simply another chance to do their favorite thing and go away for a long, if possibly undeserved, holiday.

Teflon Man does it again! PDF Print E-mail
Mar 10, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Berlusconi, as Pandora inhabitant
So here we are, several weeks after what appeared to be the high point (or, rather, the low point) of the Berlusconi sex scandal, his indictment by a Milan court on charges that in most other countries would have led a prime minister to resign immediately, and absolutely nothing has happened and at this point probably will not. The charges in the case that has become known as Rubygate" after the name of a then under-age Moroccan party girl, involve on the one hand, what is known as an "abuse of power", because of the prime minister's interference with police to get the 17-year old girl released after an arrest for stealing rather than sent to a supervised community for minors, and, on the other, the far more serious one of being involved in the prostitution of a minor. For the record, Berlusconi denies he had sex with the girl.

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