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The return of Silvio?

Alistair Burnett Alistair Burnett | 15:45 UK time, Wednesday, 9 April 2008

This weekend Italians go to the polls to elect a new government (nothing new there you may think given the country has had more than 60 governments, albeit not all as a result of elections since the creation of modern republic from the ruins of Mussolini's fascist dictatorship and the abolition of the monarchy at the end of World War II.)

The World TonightGiven this, you may ask why we are sending our presenter Robin Lustig to cover the election in depth for The World Tonight. A good question which in one sense is easy to answer in two words - Silvio Berlusconi.

Controversial is not really doing Mr Berlusconi - who is favourite to return to power this weekend - justice. A former cruise liner crooner who rose to be the country's richest man, a TV mogul, owner of one of Europe's top football teams and two times prime minister, Mr Berlusconi has also been persistently accused of corruption - though never convicted - and some of his closest advisers have been found guilty of bribery as well as collusion with the mafia. Silvio Berlusconi, who's also known as Il Cavaliere, stands out as a leading politician who also controls a large chunk of his country's media. A situation which many other European countries would probably not accept and has led to suggestions that if Italy were not a member of the EU already, it may well have trouble being accepted as a member today.

Understanding the appeal of such a politician in modern Europe is what we will attempt on the programme.

Silvio BerlusconiBut Italy has a wider importance to the rest of Europe too. It's one of the largest countries in the EU and has an economy which is in decline. It adopted the Euro at its inception, but its public finances are in such a state some Italians would like to abandon the currency, which could have a serious impact on the prestige of the new money. Italy also faces a dilemma - in some ways similar to that faced by France - of deciding whether to introduce liberal economic reforms at the risk of jeopardising a quality of life many in the rest of world envy.

In this election, both the main candidates, Mr Berlusconi and his centre-left challenger, Walter Veltroni, are promising reform. But there is doubt whether they can deliver on those promises and also whether the electorate is really going to decide on these issues when most observers agree this election will really be about one thing - whether or not to return Mr Berlusconi to office.

Robin Lustig will be examining these questions and bringing you the results of the vote. Ahead of the vote he'll be presenting the programme from Milan on Friday and then move on to Rome Monday night, by which time we should know if Il Cavaliere has returned to the prime minister's palace.


Mr.Burnett: Silvio Berlusconi reckons right-wing women are better looking than those of the left. Well, my wife advises me that right-wing men are certainly not!

  • 2.
  • At 12:43 PM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Pilar wrote:

I am an Italian/American who has been living in Italy for four years... and now two major elections. It is an under-statement to say we need reform! A return to Berlusconi will certainly lead us on the wrong path but we need elected politicians who stand by their reform pledges and an electorate who takes them. Many issues must be acknowledged by Italians, such as the low female employment numbers. If they are not tackled by the in coming government then we must all prepare for a continuing down turn to the Italian economy and society. I hope we can all wake up to it and continue to enjoy 'la dolce vita' here in Italy!

  • 3.
  • At 04:05 PM on 10 Apr 2008,
  • Pietro, Italy wrote:

The return of Silvio? No doubt! Probably, it will be Berlusconi. Perhaps, it will be Veltroni (a.k.a. 'The failed Berlusconi clone') but a kind of Silvio is arriving here...

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