The downfall of Berlusconi

Share

Are the plates shifting beneath Rome? Are we seeing the beginning of the end of Silvio Berlusconi, the longest-serving Italian prime minister since the Second World War?

Are the plates shifting beneath Rome? Are we seeing the beginning of the end of Silvio Berlusconi, the longest-serving Italian prime minister since the Second World War?

Mr Berlusconi's centre-right coalition is in turmoil. The government's disastrous showing in regional elections earlier this month has caused tensions between the coalition parties to erupt, leading to the withdrawal of two junior partners. Even if this crisis does not provoke an early election, the prognosis for the long-term survival of the Prime Minister and his Forza Italia movement looks bleak. Four years after storming to power, his record is dismal and the patience of the Italian electorate is wearing thin. It is alarm at the prospect of political annihilation when the country gives its verdict that lies behind his allies' decision to desert.

Why has Italy fallen out of love with the billionaire media magnate and his unique brand of political showmanship? The economy is the short answer. There is profound disappointment that in four years the centre-right has not been able to deliver growth. Most Italians who voted for Mr Berlusconi hailed him as a charismatic tycoon who could use his impressive business acumen to perform an economic miracle. Now they feel poorer than they did when they voted him in, and correctly dismiss his promises as hot air.

The economic reforms Italy is crying out for, on labour markets for example, lie untackled, while promised tax cuts have barely materialised. The embattled Prime Minister is promising more tax cuts to boost his flagging popularity, but everyone knows his hands are tied; the EU is threatening legal action over Italy's rising budget deficit. While the wheels of the economy spin in the sand, Mr Berlusconi seems to have spent most of his time astride the political stage on such projects as a devolution plan which could further impoverish the southern regions; and on securing his own immunity from judicial attack over his past business dealings.

Mr Berlusconi can boast about the political "stability" he has achieved by holding together his government for so long. But the price paid in the erosion of democratic principles, including freedom of the press, has been too high. That is why the present crisis is reassuring. Even a leader who enjoys almost complete domination of the media cannot guarantee his own political survival in the face of harsh economic reality.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?