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 The decree was rescinded.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

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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Recruitment Genius: Appointment Maker / Telesales

£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Field Sales Executive - Dereham

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation is proud to b...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Libby Lane, the first female bishop in the Church of England, smiles following her consecration service at York Minster in York  

Libby Lane's appointment as the first female bishop might have been understated, but its importance echoes around the world

Sally Hitchiner
The leader of Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau holding up a flag as he delivers a message  

The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11

Memphis Barker
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project