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LA STAMPA

Silvio Berlusconi’s Long And Bitter Twilight

Editorial: Berlusconi’s use of the political system to fight his personal battles has become so overwhelming that little else is pursued in Italian public life. Tale of a nation blocked by one man’s troubles.

Silvio Berlusconi’s Long And Bitter Twilight
Michele Brambilla

Following last week's approval of a justice reform bill to shorten the statute of limitations, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced his next legislative moves will be to target the use of wiretapping in criminal investigations and a reform of the entire justice system.

This is just the latest disheartening proof that Italian politics has become a personal business. This privatization of politics no longer surprises anyone. By now, we are all accustomed and resigned to the fact that Silvio Berlusconi will use the political system to satisfy his personal vendettas.

Italian politics at this point is just a war: you are either for or against the Prime Minister. Everything revolves around him. The government and the parliament's activities, the most important judicial inquiries, the demonstrations in the streets, the press campaigns, the parties' debates: they are all about him.

Berlusconi even influences our national religion, soccer. Berlusconi's approval rating could rise or fall depending upon whether his club AC Milan wins the national championship, or whether he buys star striker Cristiano Ronaldo. It is always all about him. In Italy, people speak and fight only about Berlusconi.

Those who love him, defend him no matter what. They say the trials against him are based on the fabrications of ‘Communist" judges. And even when he is guilty of something, his supporters say: "Everyone does it." Those who hate him think that he is responsible for all the world's evils. In the movie "La bellezza del somaro" The beauty of the donkey by Sergio Castellito, a character lashes out against Berlusconi because a drinks dispenser is jammed. "What has Berlusconi to do with it?" asks the Laura Morante character. "It is always about Berlusconi," he answers.

Never before in the history of the Italian republic has one person been under the spotlight and monopolized the political stage for so long.

For these reasons, when Berlusconi assembled his coalition government's group leaders at his private residence in Rome last week, no one was surprised to hear that the government's agenda and his personal agenda are identical. In the last months, the Italian Parliament and Senate have been busy with the Prime Minister's personal affairs. So despite Italy's many troubles, a Prime Minister asking his allies to work full-time for him is accepted as normal. The bills about wiretapping, removing powers from the prosecutors and punishing judges are all in the personal interest of Berlusconi.

"We have the majority to pass these bills," the Prime Minister has repeatedly said over the last months. Despite governmental crisis and notable departures from the coalition, the government still maintains its majority. What for? It does not use its majority to pursue social programs, to help troubled companies and workers, or to fulfill its promises on lower taxes and a lighter state. The government is so obsessed with a private matter that it does not use its majority for pursuing any of these issues that the country needs to address.

Despite their strong majority, Berlusconi and his government do not look like winners. Today's Berlusconi has little to do with the man who had Italians dreaming of their future two decades ago. Today, a dark and angry atmosphere hovers over the country. While this could signal the last days of the empire, Berlusconi's ability to survive should not be underestimated. It is an atmosphere of twilight: where the leader has not yet met his end, but the country is held hostage by his psychodrama.

Read the original article in Italian.

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