I politici Italiani – How Berlusconi did it and whether Monti will make it

Silvio Berlusconi – Is he checking out a girl?

How did Silvio Berlusconi ever manage to become so popular? An article in the Telegraph neatly summarises some of the top 10 of things a Prime Minister should not do when in office… My favourite disgrace is point 4, which makes Italy look like anything except being a country which should be taken serious:

Mr Berlusconi caused outrage by saying that although he was considering deploying 30,000 troops to Italy’s cities, there would never be enough soldiers to protect Italy’s many “beautiful girls” from rape.

After the opposition party said his comments were profoundly offensive, Mr Berlosconi said his comments were meant as a compliment to Italian women. He said rape was a serious crime, nevertheless people should not forget their good sense of humour where his comments are concerned.

In 2003, he advised investors in New York to relocate to Italy because the secretaries were better looking than their American counterparts.

“Another reason to invest in Italy is that we have beautiful secretaries… superb girls.”

Many people wonder how Mr Berlusconi ever managed to ever get elected in the first place.. I’m definitely one of them. So lets have a short glance as to how he made it.

A Brit, named Alex Roe, who has been living and working in Milan for the last 10 years attempted to give an explanation. Among his explanations are that the Vatican doesn’t oppose him due to beneficial taxation and Silvio’s denouncement of abortion; some of his supporters understand that cronyism is a necessity; he has a large network of good friends and knows how to play out his enemies; he has the image of a family man; many Italians don’t read newspapers but rather watch Berlusconi’s TV channels (Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4); many Italians believe that corruption is a necessity; and the fact that Italy has a culture of forgiveness, meaning that

those who make mistakes should be given another chance, and another, and another (repeat for several paragraphs).  You only have to take a look at the number of Italian politicians with distinctly uninspiring track records who have been around for an eternity to understand just how incredibly forgiving Italians are.

Italians have forgiven Berlusconi for his past foibles. They may well forgive him again.

Mr Roe concludes his 3-part search for the reasons why Silvio Berlusconi managed to be Prime Minister of Italy 3 times, for a total of about 9 years with this:

Having spoken to Italians about Berlusconi, a common opinion I have come across is – No, he’s not the greatest prime minister Italy has ever had – but there are no alternatives (TINA).  And in answer to the question: Should he go?  Italians tend to think he should not, owing to the fact that in this period of crisis, general elections would not be a good idea.  Why? Because on the run up to elections, governments simply stop governing.

Italians have been carefully cajoled and conditioned into their positive regard for their colourful leader, and this is where Berlusconi’s genius lies: his ability to play on and magnify those facets of the Italian psyche which have always existed and will continue to do so long long after Silvio Berlusconi is no more than a memory.In conclusion, I’d say the main reason why Berlusconi continues to hold on to power is because he has worked very hard to create and to maintain Italians who will vote for him.  Berlusconi’s primary tool is his extreme media might.

So the argument is that there was no viable alternative and that his smart network of friends and resources, as well as Italian (business) culture — which accepts that, according to Mr Alex Roe, corruption is necessary and that women may be used as attactive objects–  made his maffia-like style of ‘governing’ acceptable.

Well, I just checked Wikipedia.org on Silvio Berlusconi, and the part on his personal fortune tells us the story:

Berlusconi’s main company, Mediaset, operates three national television channels covering half of the national television sector; and Publitalia (it), the leading Italian advertising and publicity agency. Berlusconi also owns a controlling stake in Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, the largest Italian publishing house, whose publications include Panorama, one of the country’s most popular news magazines. His brother, Paolo Berlusconi, owns and operates il Giornale, a centre-right wing newspaper which provides a pro-Berlusconi slant on Italian politics. Il Foglio, one of the most influential Italian right-wing newspapers, is partially owned by his wife, Veronica Lario. After Lario sold some of her ownership in 2010, Paolo Berlusconi acquired a majority interest in the newspaper. Berlusconi is also the founder and major shareholder of Fininvest, which is among the largest private companies in Italy[15] and operates in media and finance.

He and his Family own half of the country’s media/entertainment/news(!) industry!

Enough on Silvio “the joker” Berlusconi, lets turn to “Super” Mario Monti.

Mario Monti – he actually looks like a serious politician

We all know that Mr Mario Monti governed the country for a year and has stepped down, due to the loss of confidence by Il Popolo della Liberta — Berlusconi’s party. Whether he will become PM after the February 2013 elections is not clear. Apparently,

As a lifetime senator, Mr Monti cannot run for office but can take part in an election campaign and can return to the post of prime minister if asked by a party or coalition.

This is what Monti had to say about his position in politics. He doesn’t necessarily want to become PM again, the importance for him lies in policy rather than politics

To the forces that show convinced and credible adherence to the Monti agenda, I would be ready to give my advice, my encouragement and if necessary leadership,

I would also be ready to assume one day, if required by circumstances, the responsibilities that would be entrusted to me by the parliament.

As such we can only hope you he will be appointed into a political party and then, that that political party would win elections. Apparently, among Italian political analysts the speculation goes that Monti might join forces with centralist parties, which could lead to an alliance between the central-Left Democratic Party of Pier Luigi Bersani and Mario Monti.

In addition, the same Bloomberg article mentions a very positive trend for the wellbeing of Italy’s economy –namely, the decrease in the borrowing costs of Italian bonds, spurring the sale of government bonds, needed to finance Italy’s huge — as always…– government debt of 126% of GDP.

Hopefully the Italian voters will make the right decision this time, though for some reason I am quite skeptical. What would convince them to do the right thing this time? Remember that Monti was not elected, but rather appointed last year…

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