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Whither Berlusconi? Who knows? PDF Print E-mail
Oct 28, 2012 at 05:45 PM

Image So when Silvio Berlusconi made a video the other day to tell his followers he would not be a candidate for premier in next spring's elections, did he perhaps know he was about to be sentenced to four years of prison and be barred from public office for three years? Who knows? But the fact is, it it doesn't really matter - for two reasons.

One, the sentence handed down Friday by a Milan court is only the first of three levels of Italian criminal proceedings, which means Berlusconi isn't going to jail any time soon. Two, Italian papers' idea of journalism these days is little more than acting as an overlarge, non discriminating bulletin board for politicians, so it wasn't surprising that despite the fact that Syria was burning, the euro trembling and the US is getting ready to go to the polls, Italian newspapers all ran banner headlines that day saying "Berlusconi says he will not run", as if this were really news.

In reality, almost everyone here knows that the Italian magnate has made such proclamations before and that there was absolutely no reason to believe that he might not change his mind, not a month later but....after only two days!
Yep, that's right. Just a day after his sentencing, and three - or was it two? - days after his withdrawal statement, there he was back again, saying (oh so boringly, once again) that Italy is in the hand
s of a dictatorship of magistrates, and that for this reason he was forced to throw his hat back in the arena to defend Italian democracy.

Most worrisome - but he will probably backtrack here, too - he threatened to withdraw his party's so far, pretty staunch support for the "technical" government headed by economist Mario Monti (that has been in power for almost a year) and without whose restrictive austerity policies Italy would now be in deep doo-doo. Yes, Italians are getting frustrated as the demonstrations yesterday on the ridiculously-named No Monti Day indicated. But the TV coverage also showed that most of the people marching (or throwing eggs) were union members, who have indeed been deeply affected by some of the Monti government's decisions, young people whose shaky employment (or better yet, unemployment) situation is indeed hard to bear( but not Monti's fault), and radicals who hate anyone who is in power. The middle classes stayed away.

Getting back to Berlusconi, anyone who knows Italy at all should have known that Mr. B's words last Wednesday meant next to nothing. Embarrassingly, only the New York Times seemed to take his statement literally, running a story that said the former premier's decision to leave power, "is leaving new chaos in his wake". The Times said Berlusconi's decision to step to the sidelines (ha!) could precipitate the demise of his party and "radically reshuffles the political deck".

 Actually, Mr. Berlusconi's party - the PdL has been in chaos for months, more or less ever since was forced to resign a year ago by the disintegrating financial situation - and began supporting Monti. The party's current disarray had worsened sharply in recent months because of two major corruption scandals in the Latium and Lombardy regions, both of which have been governed for the last several years by coalitions in which the PdL played a leading role. I will be posting further on the corruption scandals later this week.

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