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Berlusconi is back

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Robin Lustig | 00:31 UK time, Tuesday, 15 April 2008

ROME -- So the people of Italy have called back Il Cavaliere, their knight in shining armour, to rescue them in their hour of need.

Silvio Berlusconi perhaps makes an unlikely knight – but he earned his nickname many years ago, and it stuck. Now, he’s won his third election victory in 14 years, and he has a comfortable parliamentary majority to help him drag Italy out of the economic morass into which it has been slipping.

But isn’t he a corrupt buffoon, you may ask. Corrupt? Well, he’s faced plenty of allegations – and criminal investigations – but he’s never been convicted. As for a buffoon, well, maybe, but there’s no harm, he seems to think, in making people laugh.

Don’t forget, Berlusconi is a self-made billionaire, and buffoons don’t often make that kind of money. The secret of his political success has been to persuade enough Italian voters that he can be as successful in making their country rich again as he has been in business. The last time he was in office, between 2001 and 2006, he became Italy’s longest-serving prime minister since World War II. So if he is a clown, there may be method in his apparent madness.

He’s now 71, and when I watched him on his last pre-election TV appearance, I thought he looked tired and surprisingly lacking in enthusiasm at the prospect of the task ahead that victory would bring. But he enjoys success, and he enjoys popularity – as the scale of his election victory became clear, he thanked Italian voters for the faith they’d shown in him, and signed off with a kiss for them all.

One word of warning: he is not a huge fan of the European Commission in Brussels. They have a habit of asking questions about possible conflicts of interest between his vast business empire and his political day-job. Is it right for a prime minister to own three commercial television channels and a major national newspaper? Does it matter that as prime minister he also has indirect control over the country’s state-owned TV network? Brussels thinks it does matter, and has said so. Berlusconi doesn’t see the problem.

Last time round, his closest allies on the international stage were Tony Blair and George Bush. One has already gone; the other will be gone in less than a year. He shares with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, a love of the flamboyant and impatience with the traditional way of doing things. They also share an undisguised weakness for the company of beautiful women. So I rather suspect he’ll get on a lot better with M Sarkozy than he will with Gordon Brown or Angela Merkel.


Comments

  1. At 09:34 AM on 15 Apr 2008, KJ wrote:

    i think you'll find that he has never been convicted because he changed the law in order not to be. berlusconi is a populist politician with horrendous conflicts of interest who has nothing but his own gain at heart, at the expense of the italian people. more fool those who believe him and who didn't vote for progress.

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  2. At 10:00 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Graz wrote:

    He is not a buffon, he is a threat to libery of talk and true democracy in italy.

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  3. At 10:16 AM on 15 Apr 2008, fritz wrote:

    Talking of buffoons, I know it is only too easy to pick on Italian politics, but perhaps it would have been better journalism to actually say why Berlusconi is called il Cavaliere. Funnily enough, Berlusconi is, officially, a Knight of Work (Cavaliere del Lavoro), that being a republican knighthood given him by the Craxi government for his services to industry. Far for being a knight in shiny armour, for many Italians the Cavaliere nickname stuck as a wry, sarcastic reminder Berlusconi's pomposity.


    Had Mr Lustig been interested in real analysis of the political situation in Italy, he would have pointed out the slimming down of the parties represented in Parliament - a mere six, the first time in Italian politics neither the Fascists nor the Socialists have any representatives. Or the rise of the Northern League, without whom Berlusconi's wouldn't have won the elections.


    But why bother, it is much easier to write a zany piece on one of Europe's political mavericks. Dumbed down journalism perhaps, but great for quotes and the all important web traffic.

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  4. At 10:19 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Marion Iacopucci wrote:

    Re: Berlusconi

    Cavaliere is not a nickname but an honorific given by the state; something like Sir. He is more often called Presidente.

    We dont know whether he is corrupt because he changed laws under which he was accused, in time for sentences not to be pronounced or managed to prolong proceedings to the point when time was up and the cases were amnestied. It is also true that he has been absolved in some cases.

    He may not be a buffoon, but may of his pronouncements are crass and cringe making: especially about women,


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  5. At 10:33 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Paul M wrote:

    You say:

    "One word of warning: he is not a huge fan of the European Commission in Brussels."

    Warning? Hardly. I'd call it hope, not a warning. If the Italians can help lead the European peoples out of this mess called the EU then it has to be a positive thing.

    The Euro has been a real problem for the Italians and they would be far better off by going back to being able to set their own interest rates and not be hide bound to the EU's daft rules, regulations and procedures.

    At last we might see a leader with the guts and common sense to stand up to this out of date and artificial construct called the EU (unlike the BBC and its reporters).

    Definitely a hope.

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  6. At 10:35 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Peter wrote:


    But what are we to make of a people who have again elected to power a character most people at least believe is corrupt (and how do you become the billionaire richest man in Italy if you aren't) and who has already had two shots at running the country without achieving anything but to make, with his buffoonery, a laughing stock of his country?

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  7. At 10:43 AM on 15 Apr 2008, david wrote:

    I must honestly admit that your comments have cleary shown the italian situation.
    It is a country who needs an hero, to sort their problem out, They do not want be involved in common problems. And a clown, usually, does not let you think about problem.
    It is a pity, but it is the true. Italy is a country who uses to survive, but the actual worldwide situation says, that Italy cannot survive anymore.

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  8. At 10:47 AM on 15 Apr 2008, lorenzo wrote:

    Berlusconi corrupted?
    Which politician isn't? What about Bush?what about Blair? They made a war to make earn money to their friends that helped them winning the elections...Lobbying is corruption, in every country of the world.
    what about a country that condemned a president for his private life while reelecting one that caused a genocide of more than 600.000 men in Irak? who is the honest politician in history, let me laugh...

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  9. At 10:53 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Fiona Koeppl wrote:

    Re: Berlusconi

    The trouble is that in Italy there seems to be no real altenative and Berlusconi could possibly be the best of a bad bunch. Unfortunately, Italy and Italian Politics in general is in need of a major overhaul which the Italian People have to be ready to accept and confront.

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  10. At 11:11 AM on 15 Apr 2008, fritz wrote:

    Peter
    > But what are we to make of a people who have again
    > elected to power a character most people at least
    > believe is corrupt
    And what are we to make of people who have elected a war mongering liar three times, even when it become apparent to everyone he was a war mongering liar? Do the words 'cash', 'honours' ring a bell?

    When you vote, you can only choose amongst the available candidates. It's hard to choose between two sets of buffoons - as people living in London know only too well, having to make the choice between Johnson and Livingston. What are we to make of them?

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  11. At 11:14 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Peter Hobday wrote:

    Journalism these days is so facile. If it's Italy you want to write about, then go to the cupboard and haul out the usual sterotypical quips and throw them, like pearls, before your readers. Which domcracy in Europe is not without its problems these days - does Britain have the perfect politcial solutions to its problems, is Brown so popular? or Sarkozy, the homme nouveau in France? Has he managed to change France? Merkel has been a tremendous success in Germany, hasn't she? Or is there disatisfaction there? Zapatero in Spain is wathcing his economy go down the pan? In Ireland the prime minister has resigned because he is alledged to be involved in corruption? Or is the problem in the democracies that the voters believe that all solutions are simple, that all promises can be kept, and that they do not need to pay thier taxes, lower their consumtion, refrain from wasting the nations resources. Italy, like talleyrand "survives" - and that is about all you can expect of any political system in this modern, complicated, inter-locked in ter-dependent world.

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  12. At 11:31 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Gino wrote:

    He didn't change the law to not be convicted. He changed the law so that court cases with investigations lasting longer than 10 years can't be put through a judicial system. Sometimes the arrogance that some readers pose is just remarkable. Live in Italy, absorb the culture then comment.

    As for the blog, the cavaliere terminology has been cleared up by another poster. And the fact that it is a blog means alot of information shouldn't really be posted. So readers please think before you comment on you country you only visit in the summer, and drink you chianti in the peace of the hills, whilst real italians with real difficulties face proper struggles.

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  13. At 11:33 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Deli wrote:

    This is rather facile journalism, all too often the prerogative of the British press when they write about European countries. Does anyone remember that for years "il Cavaliere" was glossed as "the Cavalier" (honestly, cultural dimness or what!) with all that it implies, when in fact there is simply no such concept in Italian. Or the tendency to preface "signor" in front of politicians' names, even though no such practice is common in Italy and in any case it would be "il signor". I'm no fan of Berlusconi, but as several people have pointed out here, this is a sloppy piece which shows very little understanding of the Italian political tradition, with all its drawbacks, and simply panders to existing preconceptions. Ought journalism not be insightful? Informative? Pah.

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  14. At 11:34 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Lucy Italy wrote:

    Hello to everybody!
    I am an Italian woman 26 years old and I don't agree with the election results but I have to adapt me.
    I only hope this time everything goes better than before because inflation and job and taxes...un macello!!!

    A presto,
    Lucy

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  15. At 11:40 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Edoarda Paolini wrote:

    I certainly disagree with the anti-EU attitude of Paul M. Not only do I believe in the necessity of the European Union, but also strongly believe that the Euro has saved us from bankruptcy many times so far, and I thank former President Ciampi for that. I hope Mr Berlusconi will be wise enough to continue in the path of the European Union even if maybe showing the outside signs of a populistic (see Lega) aversion to it, for our country's sake.

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  16. At 11:42 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Riccardo Cestari wrote:

    Dear Robin,
    Before having a go a Berlusconi you should learn bit more about Italian politics and study the history of Italy.

    He is currently the only person that can take the country forward instead than useless left-wing politicians that still believe in Comunism and have a go a Belusconi for being corrupt when at the end they all are: bunch of hypocritical.

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  17. At 11:47 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Cristina wrote:

    I'm Italian, I live and work in Italy and I have two children. Believe me, I'm really worried about the situation of my country.
    I've thought that if Berlusconi has won again, is what Italians want, he's the idol of many people. Oh my God!
    And I'm really really worried about it !
    (sorry for my English)

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  18. At 11:50 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Francesca wrote:

    Berlusconi has been reelected because he's the leader of a party whose policies appeal to the majority of Italians, who are clever enough not to care about Berlusconi's personality and judicial problems, which have nothing to do with how government decisions are taken. I see in this blog many comments by people who have clearly a very bad knowledge of the Italian reality. Maybe they should focus on the UK's problems, such as the disgraceful state of public transport and the NHS, unsustainable levels of individual indebtment, the handling of the Northern Rock crisis, the loss of an influential role on the international scene, alcoholism and being brainswashed into an ill-informed environmentalism before passing judgement on the "Italian people".

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  19. At 11:51 AM on 15 Apr 2008, Michael wrote:

    I am Italian. I think that Italians are too foolish to understand that Berlusconi is not the right man for our country!
    He spent 5 yers (form 2001 to 2006) making serious damages! creating AD PERSONAM LAWS
    (laws useful for his own buisness) promoting federalism who will just devide richest northern Italy and Poorest South. Supporting private school and not Pubblic ones. Promoting precarious job.
    And many other bad things for Italy. a country that needs to grow with Europe.
    Berlusconi will not follow the progress and over all he will not fallow Europe!!!
    I feel absolutely insecure! and i was looking for stability.

    MICHAEL

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  20. At 12:01 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Domenico wrote:

    Hello.....

    I have a dream: Jeremy Paxman interviews Mr Berlusconi.....

    Then yoy will find out how much he is corrupted..

    About the situation in Italy, a possible solution would be to rent the South of the country to the UK for 99 years and apply the british rules like in Honk Kong.........it is the only way to get rid off the Mafia......;-)

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  21. At 12:13 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Luca wrote:

    The true question is: was the alternative better than him?
    Veltroni was completely unsuccessful in presenting himself as a new kind of politician, particularly in the North, where he was easily associated with the awful shortcomings of Mr Prodi's cabinet. He failed to address effectively some key issues like immigration and crime.The northern middle-classes saw him as an expression of what they consider the less productive sections of the society (civil service, trade unions and so on) and simply could not trust him.

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  22. At 12:42 PM on 15 Apr 2008, saba wrote:

    First of all please have respect for the large majority of Italians that have voted for the PDL party! Concerning Berlusconi he was not born in politics: he's a self -made successful business man that has given a jobs to thousands of Italians in his companies (that why he received the title of : Cavaliere of Work) Ok his "international gaffes" have made people laugh , but these cannot be compared to the "gaffes" in actions made by the "cast "of "professional" politicians (who nearly all have yachts.... but whose only job has always consisted in keeping themselves firmly glued to their seat in parliament) that have made a lot of Italians cry and reduced the country to its actual status.

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  23. At 12:49 PM on 15 Apr 2008, zannad wrote:

    Not many have yet realized the most important thing about the result of these Italian elections.
    The Communist and the Right wing extremists are out...most importantly, the parliament is basically made by only 3 parties: The PDL (Berlusconi), the PD (Veltroni) and the Northen League (Bossi).
    This is a real revolution in Italian politics...marred by decades of defragmented small political powers.
    Italy has never been so Governable.

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  24. At 01:10 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Pier wrote:

    I don't trust the man, although having a stable government and a simplified parliament (5 or 6 parties only) is a positive thing.

    Somebody should say that this political simplification comes from the brave decision of Veltroni to run on their own. He has made a choice for a possible future for Italy, not just for his party.

    Also, Berlusconi does not seem to care that Italians pay interest to 2 times the amount of public debt than the average EU country. Who is paying for it? Not the richest for sure. And not me, as I'm living in the UK. But my parents do, and my brother does.

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  25. At 01:31 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Sa' wrote:

    As a family living in Italy through the first Berlusconi Era we decided to get satellite tv in order to watch BBC to get a balanced view of the new.

    having read your blog I now wonder what we will watch.

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  26. At 02:10 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Marco wrote:

    Frankly, Mr Lustig, you miss the point when you say that “The secret of his political success has been to persuade enough Italian voters that he can be as successful in making their country rich again as he has been in business”. The secret of his success is just the fact that he was able to create a party right in time to fill a huge empty space created after the big bribery scandal in early 90’s (a scandal that curiously didn’t touch the Left that admninistrated as much regions as its opposers…) when for anyone not leaning to the Left (the majority of Italian voters..) it was simply impossible to vote for former Marxist parties (that at that time, were less “former” than now), in an epoch were ideologies still had their weight. In that condition ANYONE could dispose of millions of potential supporters. And since nobody (or almost) in Italy “votes for” (almost anybody “votes against”) the only choice for millions of voters was to vote the lesser of two evils. It was not a matter of persuading voters. Since then foreign media, that unluckily didn’t see this simple reality, labeled that as “millions of dumb voters get persuaded by Berlusconi because of his TV channels etc.”… such a childish explaination in a country like Italy where traditionally nobody trusts media, was the most misleading possible..
    That was 15 years ago. Nowadays ideologies lost much of their weight (thanks God), but still it’s not a matter of people’s faith in a politician or in his opposers. Nobody here thinks that “now that Berlusconi is back, it will be a completely different country, we’ll be richer etc.”. We don’t live on Mars. Simply. everybody knows which are the reforms to be done, and hopes (just hopes) that the government (this time a right wing one, the last time a left-wing) will be up to the mark. Somehow the increasing economic difficulties made people more pragmatic. Berlusconi and his opposers will be judged on their results, not on things like “conflict of interests” and other similar things nobody is really interested in.

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  27. At 02:15 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Alessandra Frosoni wrote:

    "Cavaliere" is not a nickname bu a title given to him many years ago (when he was not in politic) by the President of the Republic. Is a bit like making someone a Dame or Sir.
    Said this, I am one of those Italians who didn't vote for him!!
    I really think that his approach is too superficial. I have problems with the conflict his involvement in TV,Papers and public service may cause, I find his justicial policy somewhat mad (and this is not good) and I do believe he is too autocratic.
    But Italy is a democracy, he has won democratic elections, so let's see what he will do and evenctually don't vote him again next time.

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  28. At 02:55 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Antonio wrote:

    Indeed whether we like it or not a considerable majority of Italians have chosen Berlusconi. If democracy means anything such choice is to be respected (and even Veltroni has recognized that). Yet, as it happens in italian elections, a lot of people votes for what they perceive the lesser evil and not because are so enthusiastic about their choice. Personally, I believe that even though in many ways the political practices are a sad mirror of the society the political class has reached a level of arrogance and greed that is simply unacceptable. Left, Centre and Right parties, enemies the whole year always agree to vote their salary increases while the rest of country suffers! Shame on them!

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  29. At 03:10 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Max wrote:

    Well, it is probably a virus attacking the health of democracy and bringing her to her dead bed.
    I'm not surprised that Berlusconi won the elections.
    I'm not surprised that someone endorsing officially torture is the leader of the "mother of all democracies".
    I'm not surprised that in Thailand worst buffoons than Berlusconi are in power right now.
    It looks like all "democracies" are affected by the same virus. Not that democracy has ever been a perfect system, but it used to be livable.
    Never forget anyway that the fault is not in the torturers and bufoons, the fault is in those who elect them

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  30. At 03:18 PM on 15 Apr 2008, F.S.Medioli wrote:

    When dealing with other countries British journalists are often extraordinarily ignorant of the historical background that shaped their culture. After WWII the commission that wrote the Italian Constitution had one dominant idea in mind: NO MORE DICTATORS. They made sure that future Italian Governments would be vulnerable and they sure were. Sixty years later, the Italian Democracy is not in danger any longer but the weakness of the Governments is still there. This election is likely to change the situation and lead to a more stable political landscape. Recent Governments were paralyzed by the presence of a myriad of tiny Parties; now Berlusconi and Veltroni have accomplished the miracle of reducing the fragmentation to a tolerable level. Kudos to both. If they can cooperate and change the present absurd electoral law they will be remembered as political heros.
    As for Mr. Berlusconi alleged corruption he is in good international company (Even the British have no reason to be too complacent). Mr. Berlusconi has the gift of gab and sometimes he gets a bit carried away. So what? If he can run the Country (I hope he can) who cares?

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  31. At 03:21 PM on 15 Apr 2008, ernesto pescini wrote:

    Every time Berlusconi goes to power, we see a colorful collection of critics. The Italians have voted Him, so He is to be accepted, not criticized. If he fails it is Italy's problem because they have made their choice.

    Berlusconi pushes buttons because his approach to Politics is not coherent with normal political views!
    Fear is that if he wins the other countries will be in serious trouble.

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  32. At 03:22 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Patrizia wrote:

    Thanks to all for clarifying the meaning of "Cavaliere" title. Foreign journalist have this tendency to ridicule Italian culture and institutions...I have never heard a mockery about the "baronet" titled awarded in the UK to all sort of entertainers! Anyway, Berlusconi is a smart business man, very much following an "USA" tycoon lifestyle and ideas. But he is BAD news for Italia, real bad: The man brought a prime minister (Craxi) down with one of the many allegations of bribery of his career. That prime minister paid by self-exile and shame, "Berlusca" and his brother are still at large. Berlusconi is a danger to civil liberties and democracy, and now, dear Italians, we can forget about the fight against tax evasion so nicely started by Prodi and endorsed by Standard and Poor last year...Anti-trust laws (non-existing in Italy, anyway) are nuissances for him. Conflict of interest brought up by Brussels is truth. What bothers me is the intellectual crisis, the decadence of my people, because, after all, lots of them voted for him...So, what can we expect?
    The left wing is weak, lacks leadership and credibility: We've got what we deserve, sadly so.
    I am in a job-exile in Minneapolis, MN, USA...We are next...McCain on the rise! Who cares for people's needs? Nobody! It's all about industrialists' filthy interests...The new "global World Order". Buona Giornata (?)

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  33. At 03:24 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Annalaura wrote:

    What Berlusconi and his politics promote is individualism, federalism, and all the absolutist, patriarchal ideologies that accompany his interests. The Italians have only demonstrated, once more, that this agenda reflects in fact their own nature.

    The rich will be richer, the poor poorer. To suffer will always be the weaker and underrepresented categories. Women beware!

    Talks of history and comparisons with the rest of Europe do not help. Italian mentality is a drawback. It is integrity, principles and ideas and sense of communion and justice that the country is lacking. And certainly Berlusconi is not a bout of fresh air.

    I have left long ago, I only fear for those left behind. Such a beautiful country...

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  34. At 04:09 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Paolo Calzolari wrote:

    Quite frankly I'm quite disappointed the way the BBC has pictured and commented the Italian elections on TV and here on the web site. Berlusconi is certainly lacking manners if not a buffoon but in world of stuck up, out of touch politicians he was still able once again to inspire people disaffected by politicians quarreling and dancing while the Titanic is sinking. But that is just a superficial analysis.
    He comes after the "professor" Prodi a very serious and quite frankly dull technocrat hostage of a slim fragmented and dishomogeneous majority. This time in view of the harsh economic situation Italians have chosen to be governed, maybe badly, but governed. Veltroni never stood a chance ( by the way how come BBC doesn't even mention his name?...it's like talking about Sarkozy and never mentioning his rival Segolene Royal)
    The greatest news is that communist are out of parliament and that the "Cavaliere" is held at ransome by the Lega party, a xenophobic separatist party dominating all the northern and wealthy regions. Quite worrisome to most of us left wingers but it looks like it's much better to disinform your readers by talking about the bufoon guy, pizza and mandolins. The usual Italian clichet. Wake up, we are in the third millennium.

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  35. At 04:19 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Michael wrote:

    take a close look at the way the berlusconi media operate, the way the public relations industry operates; finding ways to marginalize and control the public, but particularly look at the way the berlusconi media, the sort of agenda-setting media, the national press and the television and so on, the way they shape and control the kinds of opinions that appear, the kinds of information that comes through, the sources to which they go, and so on

    it is what in more honest days used to be called propaganda

    it's true that the emperor doesn't have any clothes, but the emperor doesn't like to be told it, and the emperor's lapdogs like Mediaset are not going to enjoy the experience if you do

    people in Italy have the capacities to see through the deceit in which they are ensnared, but they've got to make the effort

    Italy is one country that needs a LOT of help

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  36. At 04:25 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Richard Menzies wrote:

    Domenico

    Good idea. British is best after all. Italy can soon enjoy the same advantages that U.K laws have provided. Binge drinking, yob culture, ineffective congestion charges and daily stabbings.

    I can hardly wait.


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  37. At 04:37 PM on 15 Apr 2008, A Sardinia exPat wrote:

    Berlusconi, more than a buffoon or taxcheat, is perceived by many Italians as a man who at least knows how to make money - a talent the rest of Italy doesn't seem to have these days. That is mainly why he won - they want him to show them how to be prosperous again - to give them some optimised (however misplaced) and who cares if the details are a bit shady.

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  38. At 04:42 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Roberto wrote:

    I am 21 and travel to and from Italy, where my parents live, as I study in the UK.

    It seems to me, everything in Italy is a repetition, occasionally with a different name, a different facade. It is the same in all countries that are not undergoing some kind of absolute turmoil. Italy is blessed in some ways, cursed in others. All of us have food to put in our mouths, except of course, most immigrants (but you try having a law that prohibits sending immigrants back once they cross a certain line; those poor people come in the hundreds every day).

    We have unique difficulties: again, the influx of immigrants; corrupt politics (e per carita', don't compare our shameless politicians with those from other countries, we overlook so many things because we have grown accustomed to them till they seem normal, as so many of my compatriots have shown above); a generation of "youths" in the worst sense of the word.

    I am not worried about Italy now more than I am about Italy in 15, 30 years time, when all of my coetanei will be adults; businessmen, fathers, mothers, politicians. If you want to fix Italy, fix those of my age first. Someone (above) said we view the media with scepticism. This is true for everyone who actually watches the news.

    My generation watches season 50,000 of Big Brother.

    Those of us that are wiser and haven't fallen into an anti-cultural trap that was unwittingly set for us (by Italian television, owned by whom?) will have to deal with a country that has virtually no industrial resources (e.g. we get virtually all electricity from France and Switzerland, the constitution prohibits nuclear power plants), poor education (our knowledge of foreign languages is APPALLING, and our university degrees take 2 to 4 years more than those in Anglo-Saxon countries), poor job opportunities (one of my Italian teachers had to work for eight years FOR FREE before he was given a job, and he was very bright mind you), and the after-effects of a despicable political reality.

    I apologise for the length of this comment, which I am sure is a dead giveaway of my young age, however this is the voice of all those youngsters dissatisfied with what is in store for us, and our loving parents (and their pensions).

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  39. At 04:44 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Luca wrote:

    Mr Lustig: what do you think of the response to your blog today? If the brief was to annoy people and disturb foreign sensibilities with a tone of glib detachment then ... I am sure that Mr Berlusconi's Mediaset would be proud to offer you a position.

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  40. At 04:57 PM on 15 Apr 2008, MarcoKanada wrote:

    Sir, Italy has been in tremendous agony since Berlusconi's first taking over...It's a beautiful country, which is ruined by Italiens.
    Annalaura, I left in 2006 to go to Canada and I don't regret it...but, sorry for those who stay and want to stay there.

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  41. At 06:04 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Matteo Sartori wrote:

    Dear Lusting, it obviously doesn't matter to you what is going on in Italy, as you treat these elections and the menacing figure of Mr Berlusconi as the usual italian folklore. Well it is folklore, but it is also a national tragedy that someone who has proved himself so ruthless and piratesque (I guess you have to look closer into Mr Berlusconi court record and personal history) and who carries a huge conflict of interests, has such an appeal on a whole country. We have dealing with this issues for 15 years now and the results on our society are well cropped today, April 2008; even harder times are in sight for those who bear sincere democratic feelings, but it's adamant that italians themselves are the true problem of this country. Beware! No room for berlusconis in the public life of whatsoever european country, let alone Great Britain. A man of this kind would have flew the country or sent to jail some 2 or 3 decedes ago.
    Matteo, Milan

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  42. At 06:28 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Melissa wrote:

    He's back. Today, going to work in the centre of Florence, my bus was 20 minutes late and I had to wait in the rain.

    I'm taking this as a bad omen.

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  43. At 06:38 PM on 15 Apr 2008, marco valente wrote:

    As an Italian, I was extremely deluded by the elections' results. Nonetheless, that's what the majority of the people wants now.

    Veltroni, the left-wing opponent, ran a good campaign. Maybe he didn't have enough time.
    In any case, Italians gave the country to Berlusconi because he looked the strong man who could solve the problems.

    Italians are scatterbrained, and they tend to forget all the bad deeds of the centre-right past government. All the laws that he tailored for himself. All the attacks to freedom of speech. Eventually I am realizing that if we don't protest, we don't deserve that much freedom.

    It is one of the reasons why I moved abroad, far from Italy. Because Italians don't want to change, and are happier when a Big Brother is controlling them.

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  44. At 06:47 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Anonymous wrote:

    The analysis carried here is really superficial.

    As someone already said, he was not convicted not because he was innocent, but because he changed and tailored the law just in time.

    Plus, his opponent has not been mentioned at all in your post, and two facts has been neglected: the disappearance of the communist party and the steep increase in votes earned by the North League.

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  45. At 06:47 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Sol wrote:

    Just for the record: Cavaliere is not a nickname, at least not strictly. It is an honour that the president of the Italian Republic gives to persons with important achievements as entrepreneurs. The complete title is Cavaliere del Lavoro = Chevalier of Service. Berlusconi received the honour in 1977.

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  46. At 07:05 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Roberto wrote:

    My apologies if there will be repeated posts.

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  47. At 09:00 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Marco77 wrote:

    Frankly, Mr Lustig, you miss the point when you say that "The secret of his political success has been to persuade enough Italian voters that he can be as successful in making their country rich again as he has been in business". The secret of his success is just the fact that he was able to create a party right in time to fill a huge empty space created after the big bribery scandal in early 90's (a scandal that curiously didn't touch the Left that admninistrated as much regions as its opposers…) when for anyone not leaning to the Left (the majority of Italian voters..) it was simply impossible to vote for former Marxist parties (that at that time, were less "former" than now), in an epoch were ideologies still had their weight. In that condition ANYONE could dispose of millions of potential supporters. And since nobody (or almost) in Italy "votes for" (almost anybody "votes against") the only choice for millions of voters was to vote the lesser of two evils. It was not a matter of persuading voters. Since then foreign media, that unluckily didn't see this simple reality, labeled that as "millions of dumb voters get persuaded by Berlusconi because of his TV channels etc."… such a childish explaination in a country like Italy where traditionally nobody trusts media, was the most misleading possible..

    That was 15 years ago. Nowadays ideologies lost much of their weight (thanks God), but still it's not a matter of people's faith in a politician or in his opposers. Nobody here thinks that "now that Berlusconi is back, it will be a completely different country, we'll be richer etc.". We don't live on Mars. Simply. everybody knows which are the reforms to be done, and hopes (just hopes) that the government (this time a right wing one, the last time a left-wing) will be up to the mark. Somehow the increasing economic difficulties made people more pragmatic. Berlusconi and his opposers will be judged on their results, not on things like "conflict of interests" and other similar things nobody is really interested in.

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  48. At 09:59 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Gino wrote:

    Can some English man could help us?We have the nicest Land of the world but the worst citizens so only a serious anglo-saxon citizen could manage us.
    Berlusconi like Berluschi(is a wine) and the Italians are drunk,this is the reason they re-vote him

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  49. At 10:28 PM on 15 Apr 2008, Massimo Franzese wrote:

    Fantastic!
    Berlusconi has won the communists have been defeated now we are safe.
    I am so happy I will pay less taxes, Naples is going to be clean and tidy and Alitalia won't be sold to the nasty French people that just want tourist to fly to Paris
    AC Milan wins the Champion League and the Lira is reintroduced so that we can export under cost like the Chinese
    Wow am so excited by all of this I am looking forward to the first steps of the new government
    Apparently there will also be a tax allowance for sunbeds and all forms of fake tan and plastic surgery will be financed by the ASL
    Thanks Silvio
    While majority of people would think about retirement at the age of 71 you are here to give us the good example and work for all of us

    I am sure the majority of italians think like me and that is why Silvio won!!!


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  50. At 12:17 AM on 16 Apr 2008, marco beneventi wrote:

    People see through berlusconi they have not been taken in by him,nor are they "drunk" as somebody here suggested. A very rational pragmatic calculation was made that berlusconi was merely the lesser of two evils. After the farce of the prodi goverment, how can anybody in their right minds seriously expect the italian electorate to return the centre-left for a second term? Everybody knows what needs to be done, which is why both belusconi and veltroni had very similar programmes, prompting an american magazine to put the headline "veltrusconi" on it's front page. What is really significant about this result, is that in the previous parlaiment we had about 25 different parties, now we have only six. This does offer a small glimmer of hope. A small glimmer but a genuine one nevertheless.

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  51. At 12:41 AM on 16 Apr 2008, Brittany wrote:

    I think it is very sad that there is a nearly complete disappearance of the left in Italian politics. I'm quite surprised that people tolerate the huge conflict of interest with Berlusconi's ownership of three media channels and a newspaper; after all, where do people get their information? Television and papers. Thank goodness for the Internet as a new "uncontrolled" medium. I understand the vote as a way to create a unified government after Prodi's failure...good luck Italia!

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  52. At 01:22 AM on 16 Apr 2008, Philip Greco wrote:

    As an American, I can thoroughly sympathize with the Italians for having elected an idiot president with very questionable "qualities". Oh yeah, we've heard it all before: "the only way forward", "lesser of evils", "there was no real difference anyways"...

    When will people begin demanding more than the usual run-around?

    People of Liberty: funny.

    I mean really, what's with the political euphemism and blatant branding? Fast food politics?

    Obviously this is just a carny game, and we're all being taken for a not-so-fun ride. Now wave to your local billionaire. That's it people, get along now...

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  53. At 01:47 AM on 16 Apr 2008, pv wrote:

    The most astonishing thing to me is how anyone who knows what democracy is can vote for someone whose main political weapons are denying freedom of speech to his critics in public forums (e.g. television) and abusing the judicial system in order to terrorise those critics. I've lived here for more than 8 years and it's clear to me that many people have no idea what democracy is. Look what happened to Enzo Biaggi, Michele Santoro, Sabina Guzzanti... Beppe Grillo. Berlusconi's idea of democracy consists of gagging his critics.
    Talk of communists and high taxes is ignorant nonsense in Italy. Firstly the communists that used to be in Italy were no more left wing than Britain's Labour party, and secondly if taxes are high it's mainly because the most popular Italian sport is tax dodging. And the most vociferous complainants, especially here in the North, are those who pay the least.
    It's the same with immigration. Those who complain the loudest are often those who employ immigrants illegally, exploit and mistreat them.
    In Italy it is impossible to live without being forced to break the law in some way. Buying or renting an apartment or house often involves between 20% and 50% payments on the black. Dentists offer discounts for cash and pocket the VAT. Local government institutions will often insist on paying on the black. I know these sorts of thing happen every day because that's my experience and that of many others. Once you understand that mentality it's easier to understand why Italy's Politicians are corrupt and the Country is a basket case.
    Italy is institutionally corrupt yet the really odd thing is, in spite of all that it still manages to function. But for how much longer?

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  54. At 07:10 AM on 16 Apr 2008, mk wrote:

    Not only he's not a corrupt buffoon but he's the only into the whole Italian political system that did something in his life. All the others got their money thru politics without working. He's so hated because coming into politics in 94 he disrupted the plans of the communists to become the only political choice of Italy after destroying every other party thru Mr.Di Pietro. It's so strange that they found guilty all but the communist party that has so many economical interests in Italy and seems to be untoucheable. Mr.Berlusconi is the only entrepreneur that was able to handle a so big empire where the employees has been so well treated that they decided not to be protected by the unions. He has been able to create a system without the fight between enterpreneurs and workers so loved by communists. That's the problem. He shows that there is another way to improve the self without going to the street to shout and strike every two days. Without strikes the communists are dead and Italy would be a rich country.

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  55. At 08:03 AM on 16 Apr 2008, Dave wrote:

    I've lived in Italy for 18 years and yes, I've absorbed the culture. Nevertheless as a non Italian, it's easy to spot the problems. No Italian government in 60 years of post-war politics has achieved anything significant for the country. With Europes lowest average worker's salaries, but Europe's highest political salaries, it's hard to see why so many politicians can't keep their hands off other people's money, and with a legal system as messed up as Italy's, few end up in jail, especially after Berlusconi's "modifications". Italy is a country where, basically, nothing works properly, and with the level of political priviledge so far above that of ordinary people, there is absolutely no political incentive to make real changes. Elections are not fought about issues but about personalities, and when it comes to personalities what counts is money. With Italy's staggeringly top-heavy and inefficient state beaurocracy, lethargic legal system and chaotic political system, the re-election of Berlusconi means that it's business as usual.

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  56. At 08:06 AM on 16 Apr 2008, David olivari wrote:

    Let me ask you ..
    Would you rather have Berlusconi or Alistair Darling in charge of the economy in this troubled times?
    I know who I would rather have.

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  57. At 08:31 AM on 16 Apr 2008, Marco wrote:

    Frankly, Mr Lustig, you miss the point when you say that “The secret of his political success has been to persuade enough Italian voters that he can be as successful in making their country rich again as he has been in business”. The secret of his success is just the fact that he was able to create a party right in time to fill a huge empty space created after the big bribery scandal in early 90’s (a scandal that curiously didn’t touch the Left that admninistrated as much regions as its opposers…) when for anyone not leaning to the Left (the majority of Italian voters..) it was simply impossible to vote for former Marxist parties (that at that time, were less “former” than now), in an epoch were ideologies still had their weight. In that condition ANYONE could dispose of millions of potential supporters. And since nobody (or almost) in Italy “votes for” (almost anybody “votes against”) the only choice for millions of voters was to vote the lesser of two evils. It was not a matter of persuading voters. Since then foreign media, that unluckily didn’t see this simple reality, labeled that as “millions of dumb voters get persuaded by Berlusconi because of his TV channels etc.”… such a childish explaination in a country like Italy where traditionally nobody trusts media, was the most misleading possible..
    That was 15 years ago. Nowadays ideologies lost much of their weight (thanks God), but still it’s not a matter of people’s faith in a politician or in his opposers. Nobody here thinks that “now that Berlusconi is back, it will be a completely different country, we’ll be richer etc.”. We don’t live on Mars. Simply. everybody knows which are the reforms to be done, and hopes (just hopes) that the government (this time a right wing one, the last time a left-wing) will be up to the mark. Somehow the increasing economic difficulties made people more pragmatic. Berlusconi and his opposers will be judged on their results, not on things like “conflict of interests” and other similar things nobody is really interested in.

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  58. At 10:11 AM on 16 Apr 2008, marco beneventi wrote:

    To David Olivari:
    I can't honestly make up my mind who i'd rather have in charge of the economy silvio berlusconi or alistair darling. Does that reflect worse on the former or the latter? The goverment finances i n the uk are much healthier than in italy,but you have a heavily indebted population facing the prospect of a negative equity problem. Everybody in italy knows that with a large "black economy" people have more money in their pockets than official figures suggest.This is one of the reasons why nothing really changes in italy, people are unwilling to change because despite all the problems they are simply not suffering enough, the restaurants are full and people change their cars every other year(without taking equity out of their houses). If and when this situation changes then you really may find a drive and impetus for reform,until then it's just talk. Im old enough to remember the 70s and 80s when people were saying exactly the same things "italy cant go on like this any more" etc etc. Yet here we are 20/30 years later saying the same things. My prediction is 20/30 years from now we'll still be here saying exactly the same things. In the meantime, italy will still chug along in it's own dysfuctional idiosyncratic way.
    So David to return to my original question, who would you have in charge: berlusconi or darling?

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  59. At 10:16 AM on 16 Apr 2008, Giulia wrote:

    With Mr. Berlusconi on power again, Italy is heading to disaster. I personally think he is the best dictator ever: he knows how to make people love him (showing them the truth he made up for them) while he strictly controls almost every mass-media and business in the country.
    I'm seriuosly worried about Italy's future...

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  60. At 11:06 AM on 16 Apr 2008, Guy Cross wrote:

    Wouldn't it be good to see the head of state from Italy, Equador and France having a chat... I am sure that would be an interesting meeting

    Guy

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  61. At 11:37 AM on 16 Apr 2008, KJ wrote:

    Gino - "He didn't change the law to not be convicted. He changed the law so that court cases with investigations lasting longer than 10 years can't be put through a judicial system. Sometimes the arrogance that some readers pose is just remarkable. Live in Italy, absorb the culture then comment."
    i am not a holiday-maker, i have been living in italy for the past seven years. your own statement is contradictory - let me spell it out for you as you seem to have entirely missed the point. he changed the statute of limitations - why? so that his own charges would be outside that limit.
    i think i can guess who you voted for.

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  62. At 05:27 PM on 16 Apr 2008, Zeno wrote:

    At least Italy'll have a steady government, or it should be so as Berlusconi has had full successful consent! He's given out many promises therefore his 5 years will show what he'll be capable of! But above all people should look more at distance than the length of their nose, didn't Italy have years back another man who in time of recession with nice speech and promises dragged big mas of people to his favour? One who proposed himself as the solution to peoples full problems? Berlusconi already has all favour but he's not content he wants full power! All Christians should beware of such men they may represent a feature of the antiChrist.

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