Antonio Polito: Berlusconi survives because opposition is unelectable

Share
Related Topics

My British friends ask me how it is possible, with the scandal engulfing Berlusconi, that he did not lose the election? There are many reasons for this, all difficult to explain to a non-Italian.

One must first of all understand that we Italians are very tough on politicians who take public money but very tolerant towards politicians who pay with their own money. Remember the Mani Politi(Clean Hands) investigation 16 years ago? Italy's biggest political parties were destroyed by bribery scandals where they were receiving money. But because Berlusconi is very rich, he has always been the one accused of the lesser offence of paying out the cash. It is a charge the Prime Minister has always denied, whether it concerned British lawyer David Mills or the high-class escort who recently claimed she had spent the night with him for a large sum of money.

Sexual scandals, on the other hand, are regarded as far less serious than financial ones. Italians regard private life and sexuality very differently from the British – it would require a book to explain (and maybe even that would not be enough). The simple fact is that a man with many women is an object of admiration; this is not an attitude unique to Italy but perhaps we are less hypocritical about acknowledging it than some other nations.

Another reason for the electorate's failure to punish Berlusconi is the fact that to do so would mean elevating the opposition – and that is something Italians have no intention of doing. The opposition, led by the Democratic Party, is not yet electable. In the same way that the British electorate had no appetite for the Tories after Major, the two disastrous years of the centre-left government of Romano Prodi still burns in the Italian memory.

So those voters who do abandon Berlusconi tend to shift to his most combative ally, the Northern League. The one clear trend that can be discerned is an unprecedented strengthening of the xenophobic and anti-European party of Umberto Bossi. If Berlusconi should one day fall under a bus, his successor could be someone even worse.

The writer is editor of Il Riformista, a centre-left Italian newspaper

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Senior Research Executive - Quantitative/Qualitative

£27000 - £31000 Per Annum Excellent Benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

ETL Developer / Consultant

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Primary supply teachers required in Stowmarket

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary teachers requ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Alex Salmond’s future as the First Minister of the Scottish National Party (SNP) could be cast in doubts after Scotland rejected independence in Thursday’s referendum  

Alex Salmond resigns: But why did he feel the need?

Sean O'Grady
In-your-face humour: Katie Brayben in ‘King Charles III’  

I can’t resist the lure of a powerful political drama

Janet Street-Porter
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week