Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, 71, won a third shot to lead the country after his center-right coalition won national elections. According to preliminary results, the billionaire media magnate’s coalition won a decisive victory, with 47 percent of the vote versus 38 percent for new center-left Democratic Party headed by former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni. The lower house of Parliament will now have only about six parties, from 26 in the last government, and for the first time since World War II will have no Communists. Berlusconi’s past campaigns were a mixture of his strong, idiosyncratic personality and conservative political platform, said political analyst Piero Ottone. “This time he just made jokes.” (International Herald Tribune)
What the commentators said
The “flamboyant” Berlusconi seems like “his old self,” said Matthew Kaminski in The Wall Street Journal. But despite his “familiar Viagra cracks and promises to put ‘hotties’ in his cabinet,” he didn’t really “have his heart in this race.” And the lack of popular “enthusiasm or outrage” about a third Berlusconi government is more a sign of “fatalism” than “political maturity”—neither Italy nor its new leader seem to believe the country’s “grave” economic and social problems can be fixed by the “weak” leaders Italy has produced.
Berslusconi represents the “worst aspects of traditional Italian politics,” said the Irish Independent in an editorial. But he apparently won “a clear mandate” from the disillusioned Italian electorate, and with strong majorities in both houses “he has the authority” to enact needed constitutional and economic reforms for “Italy’s creaking political system.” Unless he has changed, though, he has neither the “character or the will” to look out for anything other than “his own interests.”
The difference this time is the “compulsory bipartisanship” imposed by Veltroni and Berlusconi, said Federico Geremicca in Turin’s La Stampa. The whittling down to “at most five groups in parliament,” with two major factions, is a “veritable (positive) earthquake in parliamentary geography.” And Berlusconi has said he is open to “bipartisan” collaboration with Veltroni’s opposition party. Maybe this parliamentary “simplification” will move Italy closer to the “envied systems of other European countries,” and allow quicker decisions without sacrificing “political dialogue.”