Monday, April 14, 2008

Italians Return Buffoon To Office

Niccolo Machiavelli's Stupid Prince. (image via loranablog)

Proving, sadly, that modern Italians appear to be more enamoured now with Commedia dell'arte than actual politics, Silvio Berlusconi was re-elected with decisive victories in both houses of Parliament (The Corsair sips angrily a Grappa di Moscato d' Asti Bric del Gaian 1997). Granted, his predecessor, a living monument to aggressive ineffectiveness, was about as exciting to watch as plants produce oxygen. And, by contrast, the corrupt media-mogul with a penchant for caking his face in make-up for appearances delivers some goddam swell political theater. But Italy is at a grave moment in its history, and electing -- re-electing, actually -- an entertaining buffoon stains the Stoic tradition of this once-great nation and, worse, imperils Italy's future. From The AP via Yahoo!:

"Berlusconi, who was in his villa near Milan, made no immediate statement, just waving as he passed in his Mercedes.

"In the Senate — a race that had been expected to be close — Berlusconi was projected to win 163 seats compared to 141 for Veltroni. The body has 315 seats.

"... This was Berlusconi's fifth consecutive attempt at the premiership — and third win — since 1994, when he stepped into politics from his media empire. He has fended off challenges to his leadership by his conservative allies, survived conflict of interests accusations and criminal trials.

"'I think it was a vote against the performance of the Prodi government in the last two years,' said Franco Pavoncello, a political science professor at Rome's John Cabot University. 'Berlusconi won because he has a strong coalition and because people feel that on the other side, the government is going to take them nowhere.'

"... A laundry list of problems await him, from cleaning the streets of Naples, which he has indicated is his top priority, to improving an economy that has underperformed the rest of the euro zone for years.

The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the Italian economy, the world's seventh largest, will grow 0.3 percent this year, compared with a 1.4 percent average growth for the 15-country euro area.

"Berlusconi will also need to make economic reforms, such as streamlining the decision-making progress and cutting the costs associated with politics. Changes in the election law are also on the agenda."

The full story here.

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