Leading Article: Curtain rises on an Italian farce

Share
Related Topics
SILVIO Berlusconi took office as Prime Minister of Italy barely three months ago on a promise of change. He is a media magnate who achieved political power through a brilliant marketing campaign and the ruthless use of his private television stations. Predictably, his government is already in a mess.

It did not take very long for Mr Berlusconi's image to crack. First, the Prime Minister turned on his rivals at Italian state television and its board of governors resigned. He now controls the three state channels as well as his own broadcasting empire. He professes himself committed to resolving this obvious conflict of interests yet, curiously, nothing has been done.

Next Mr Berlusconi decided to assert his power over senior appointments at the Bank of Italy. That is a threat to its traditional integrity. He appointed as Treasury Minister Lamberto Dini, a gentleman whose long-standing connections to the old political establishment do not presage zealous reform. It may be doubted whether the necessary austere budget can be agreed and passed through parliament by the coalition.

It was Mr Berlusconi's transparent moves against Italy's judiciary, however, that showed him in his true colours. He passed a decree removing the power of pre-trial detention from magistrates investigating corruption. This had beneficial effects for many of Mr Berlusconi's old friends. But it proved too much for public opinion. The coalition partners revolted. The decree was rescinded.

Now Mr Berlusconi's own brother has been served with an arrest warrant by magistrates inquiring into allegations that corrupt payments were made to secure lenient tax treatment for the Berlusconi holding company, Fininvest. Yesterday, Mr Berlusconi's old patron, the former Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, was told that his passport would be confiscated should he ever return from his prolonged sojourn in Tunisia to face trial on corruption charges.

The bond and equity markets, which so hastily celebrated the victory of Mr Berlusconi in the deluded belief that he stood for free markets and reform, are marking prices sharply down. The lira is falling. The Prime Minister's underlings like to blame that familiar scapegoat, the foreign press. But Confindustria, the Italian CBI, yesterday spoke of its serious concern for political stability and the economy. Before farce turns to tragedy, the Northern League and the neo- fascists, who have thus far behaved with responsibility, may be forced to consider their positions. The alternative for Italy is another general election.

React Now

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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power