Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The Berlusconi Factor


Italy had elections at the beginning of the week and every Italian we know was hoping that Berlusconi’s party would be voted out. This time ..... everyone said, surely? But no. His party have been voted in again.
To outsiders, it’s all incomprehensible. This is a man who, anywhere else in Europe, would be regarded as a joke. He’s over 70, has improbably luxurious and suspiciously black hair, and is rumoured to wear make up. He has the manners of an arriviste (snubbing Angela Merkel, being rude to the Queen), and the private life of a pop star (including the girls). Elsewhere in Europe he probably wouldn’t be allowed to be in government, since he owns most of the media, television, radio and newspapers (which he used to saturate election coverage for his party), and a king-size portion of the industrial sector. In the recent court case involving the British lawyer, David Mills, where there were allegations that someone somewhere had been bribed to do or not to do something, Berlusconi dealt with it by altering the Statute of Limitation, so that the case was ruled out of time. The government also passed a law making him personally immune from prosecution.
All is not well in Italian political life. Poke a stick in shallow soil and all sorts of unpleasant things come wriggling out. Friends tell us that any stick poking risks being rewarded by a visit from the Guardia di Finanza - who are a kind of tax inspector with guns and far-reaching Orwellian powers. As most of Italy operates ‘on the black side’ of the economy, this is a pretty serious event and the Guardia di Finanza are more dreaded than the Carabinieri. It’s difficult here to keep on the straight and narrow, with tax at 50% or more even for poorly paid workers, and an impenetrable bureaucracy that can take months (or even years) to implement something simple like opening a bank account. Posting a letter to England at the Post Office involves queuing for an hour and then watching the cashier fill in three pieces of paper before issuing you with the stamp. 70% of the population still have no access to the internet.
But having said all that, I love the country - its craziness, its landscape, its fantastic people, not forgetting the food and the wine. You end up keeping your head down, like everyone else, and just getting on with your life, leaving the politics to someone else. And that’s why we’re left with Berlusconi.
And now .... I must go and make a pot of Italian coffee for those lovely gentlemen of the Guardia di Finanza, who are probably about to arrive at any moment.....

2 comments:

  1. It is scary and depressing how stupid electorates can be.

    Having said that, here in Oz our main parties are near carbon copies. So what choices do voters have.

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  2. It's the same in england at the moment - there is very little to choose between the parties. And here in Italy, there is no one to oppose Berlusconi.

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