Italy is up to a lot more than just its old tricks again
Italy seems as though it is in a perpetual state of political meltdown. Casually taking in news the average Australian, and indeed much of the Anglo world, is generally of the impression that Italy is a basketcase, but a friendly, charming and good looking basketcase nonetheless.
The miraculous Italy with its ability to survive and even thrive in this chaos is, after all, still one of the world’s largest eight economies, albeit strugling.
Now Italy is looking at the possibility of its President Silvio Berlusconi being ousted from office for the third time following a ruling by the high court that he could not be protected from prosecution.
There is also an element of slap-stick comedy about Berlusconi’s antics that epitomises the beautiful chaos of the Italian state.
But right now it has more problems than just bed hopping by a man who resembles a well-groomed and solarium attending Hobbit.
The high court ruling means that Berlusconi will once again face a corruption trial after being accused of ordering $600,000 in payments to a British lawyer in 1997 in exchange for false testimony in other corruption hearings in 1997.
This of course is on top of a series other accusations including paying for prostitutes and using state funds to bring guests to his villa in Sardinia.
But it is the men hovering around Berlusconi and the political climate in which the court decision has been made that is more worrying.
If Berlusconi was to go former neo-fascist and President of the Chamber of Deputies Gianfranco Fini is in a good position to takeover.
Although a reformed fascist who now occupies an area closest to the now defunct Christian Democrats, with Berlusconi he oversaw a range of new anti-illegal immigration measures.
These included fingerprinting of the country’s 150,000 Roma gypsies, banning the children of illegal immigrants from healthcare and attending schools and imposing fines on those who attend school (these were documented in a great piece Little Musolinis by Christine Toomey in last week’s Weekend Australian magazine).
New vigilante groups have also been legalized “to protect” Italians against crime, an upsurge in which has largely been blamed on illegal immigrants and Roma gypsies.
Among these group is the Italian National Guard whose uniform sports black caps with the Fascist Imperial Eagle symbol and armbands with the Nazi affiliated black sun symbol.
Heading up the push for these tougher measures were coalition partners the Northern League, led by Umberto Bossi. The Northen League now largely defines itself as an anti-immigration party and is pushing for federalist reforms that would give the provinces more power, including how to handle illegals.
Meanwhile Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party formed with Fini is still polling well across the country so it’s unlikely that even in the event of an election the perpetually fragmented centre-left could take power.
Like a lot of other Australians I have some Italian background and spent time living and working there. Talking to friends still in Italy and those who’d left to London a couple of years ago they are genuinely concerned about what’s now happening, way above the usual “what are you gonna do” kind of embarrassment.
Italy is now faces a crisis caused by factors that are not new for the country or its psyche: rising unemployment, corruption in government and the rise of the extreme right, and well as one that is still relatively new: mass migration to Italy.
The scary thing is that Berlusconi staying on as Prime Minister is that it might be a better option to him leaving, especially when you consider those poised take advantage of the power vacuum he’ll leave behind.
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@mooks83 sophisticated response. Think the kids parents saw it differently
More class from 9's footy show, lampooning a baby that allegedly looks like Sterlo with a pic swiped from Facebook http://t.co/BGoYP6Pn68
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