Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Berlusconi Out of Power

After 17 years of dominance of Italian politics, Silvio Berlusconi resigned the prime ministry Nov. 12, 2011 to the relief of his colleagues and the cheers of the Roman crowd.  Although the immediate cause was the crisis affecting the entire Euro zone and its impact on bonds of countries with high public or private debt, in fact, Berlusconi’s hold on Italian politics collapsed months earlier. 

·         Framing Berlusconi’s final year and the biggest blow against him, his wife filed for divorce in 2009, a story which lingered in the news throughout 2010.  The divorce removed any cover for his scandalous behavior.
·         After years of support, the ongoing sex scandals and divorce finally moved the Catholic Church to condemn his boorish behavior in January 2011.  It was followed by a declaration that ended Church support from him in September.
·         In May, his coalition lost local elections, including his home city and center of his coalition power – Milan.  Also, lost was Naples.
·         In June, he proceeded with a poorly timed referendum, which was crushed in a national vote.  At the very moment the public was breaking away from nuclear power, he promoted a referendum endorsing it.  And, in a direct threat to his power, voters rejected his effort to pass an immunity law protecting him from the efforts of local prosecutors to find criminal wrongdoing in his personal life and mix of politics and business.
·         The long running sex scandal trial continued after the election defeats, reminding the public of Berlusconi’s undisciplined lifestyle and his government’s distraction from the pending economic crises.
·         Capturing this year of embarrassments and defeats, his job disapproval rating rose from 47 percent in 2010 to 61 percent before his resignation.

Berlusconi’s hold on power mixed a promise of modernization and prosperity with conservative policies to oppose communism (Italian version) and leftist in general.  But, a negative GDP, one of the highest debt to GDP ratios in Europe, a record high (near 7%) borrowing rate, and a razor slim majority dramatized his failure to create a new Italy.  When the final crisis came at the Cannes EU Summit, he both misread its seriousness and his weakened position.

The real tragedy is that a generation of young Italians has come of age during his era and faces the same poorly functioning economy and lack of opportunity that their parents had to deal with.

See articles:
The Economists:  Put asunder

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