Andrea Mammone: The legacy of Berlusconi-ism will run for a while more

 

Andrea Mammone
Wednesday 09 November 2011 01:00
Comments

For many Italians, the last two decades will be viewed as one of the most unfortunate periods in the long history of a beautiful country. But it could also be seen as the latest test in a laboratory of democracy, which has taken in Mussolini's fascism, the strongest communist party in the West and, until now, Silvio Berlusconi.

The media tycoon was seen in the early 1990s like the saviour of a political system which many saw as broken. Political polarisation, the erosion of traditional ideologies, and a widespread system of bribes seemed the rule.

Berlusconi offered a sort of new Promised Land. He was successful, and rich. The situation could only improve. The media tycoon also became the projection of a certain stereotypical italianità (Italian-ness) - smart, shrewd, a Latin lover, funny, but also 'status-seeker'. He was paradoxically helped by the centre-left and leftist parties. These proved to be a quarrelling galaxy with different interests and ideas - able to get rid of Romano Prodi twice, despite the fact that he was the only one able to win elections against Berlusconi.

Unfortunately for him, Berlusconi lost credibility over the years: both nationally and internationally. Politics became a 'one-man-show' centred on the increasingly-absurd figure of Berlusconi: sexual scandals, police investigations, defence of his financial empire. This went along with increasingly hard-line proposals to stop wiretapping, change juvenile prostitution laws, and prevent journalists scrutinising politicians - it was an idea that modern democracies could be governed like a personal business without too much internal opposition and international interference. This was the triumph of personal interests over public duties and collective needs, and like the Emperor Nero, government leaders seemed to play the violin while Italy was financially 'burning'.

But like the Anglo-American troops liberated (with the backing of anti-fascist partisans) the country from fascism, international forces - the European Central Bank, the EU, the Franco-German leadership, and financial markets - similarly helped Italy dismiss this failing and often very embarrassing contemporary, Berlusconi's leadership. There was of course also growing opposition from his fellow industrialists and even from the Church, and economically his leadership has been devastating.

Yesterday showed the political wind had well and truly changed. Berlusconi survived the budget vote, but he lost the parliamentary majority. He tried not to step down, but there was an outcry - including from some of his main allies. Now, after a consultation with the Italian President, Berlusconi said he will resign after parliament passes the necessary economic plan requested by the European Union. This can be a matter of weeks - if not before.

This essentially represents the end of the tycoon's political career, but the legacy of Berlusconi-ism will still run for a while more. He finally lost, but he will surely not be forgotten soon.

Andrea Mammone is a historian at Kingston University London. He has co-edited books including 'Italy Today: The Sick Man in Europe'

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in