Italian politics — with porn-star candidates, Village People rally cries and advice on how to marry a millionaire — are never dull.
This morning, the country woke up to cappuccino, cornetti and another new government led by media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, which means the real fun and games are destined to start now.
I don’t have Italian citizenship, so my suffrage is limited to standing by and agonizing from the sidelines. It’d be great to fully understand why people, and so many people, voted for Berlusconi. Not so much for his policies (which I have a feeling most would be hard pressed to elaborate since he mostly talks in empty slogans) but for the man himself.
First, there’s overlooking the fact that his aesthetic adventures have turned him into a Pavarotti mini-me around the time of the tenor’s curtain call, with the harsh black eyebrows and hair-from-a can of the opera villain. He looks every one of his 70-odd summers and, try as he might, is undoubtedly old school.
And he’s one of the world’s richest men. That I would find hard to overlook, especially since a sizable chunk of his companies (three out of six national TV stations, two newspapers, the largest publisher, the largest advertising agency and numerous internet ventures) control so much of Italian media.
How could this man have much but his own interests at heart?
Finally, there’s his track record. His last round as leader, with a record five years controlling the country, did little for Italy but he did manage to pass a few laws that got him out of the legal hot seat, for more nefarious business dealings than one could cover a bottle of spray tan with.
Perhaps the alternative to Berlusconi, mild-mannered former Rome mayor Walter Veltroni, just wasn’t convincing enough. Even so, I find it difficult that anyone could reason that Berlusconi is the lesser of two evils.
An Italian friend tells me bewilderment at Berlusconi’s victory is misplaced. The real win is that it looks like — for the first time since WWII — the communists and the socialists didn’t gather enough votes to get into parliament.
That’s two less fractious troublemakers to stop the government from getting its business done and may mean more stability. I fear, though,that Italian politics are more like a church raffle: in the end, everyone will walk away with a little something. After all, with the highest political stipends in Europe, who can afford to be out of the game?