Controversial former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi seems back in the driver’s seat after the Italian parliamentary elections this week. In an upset, the billionaire’s center-right coalition has reportedly won the most votes in the Italian Senate.
The center-left coalition, which originally entered the election with a big lead in the opinion polls, only narrowly won the lower house, meaning no party has enough parliamentary seats in both chambers to form a government. As a result of this deadlock, another national election in the near term could be a possibility, but Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party appears to hold the balance of power.
Berlusconi, 76, who reportedly disavowed wanting to become prime minister again himself, campaigned in part on repealing the unpopular housing tax. According to Reuters, Berlusconi’s ability to come back from political exile was underestimated:
“Berlusconi was one of the big winners alongside the populist leader and comedian Beppe Grillo, defying polls and building substantial negotiating power for tortuous talks on how to form a new government despite a deeply uncertain result …
“Italy’s longest-serving prime minister is known for off-the-cuff humor, diplomatic gaffes and his facelifts, perennial tan, make-up and hair weave. Embroiled almost constantly in scandal, including currently a lurid sex trial, Berlusconi’s success has always been a mystery abroad.
“But his flamboyant persona hides a keen political mind and an almost uncanny talent for responding to the fears and concerns of ordinary Italians.”
As The Inquisitr has previously reported, Italy is currently in the midst of its worst recession in two decades, with unemployment above 11% and rising, while the country’s public debt is second only to Greece in the eurozone. The present administration currently led by the unelected economist Mario Monti has introduced deeply unpopular austerity measures that combined budget cuts and tax increases. But while support for Monti’s fragile coalition of centrist parties stalled, Berlusconi’s anti-EU, anti-austerity position has garnered voter approval. The list led by Monti, who was imposed on Italy by the EU when Berlusconi resigned in November 2011, finished a distant fourth in the voting.
The Wall Street Journal explains Berlusconi’s strategy after he appeared to be totally discredited upon leaving office:
“However, Mr. Berlusconi responded to the ouster with an act of political judo, blaming Italy’s economic woes on the tax increases and pension cuts introduced by Mr. Monti’s government. In early December, his party brazenly pulled its support from Mr. Monti in parliament bringing down the emergency government. Since then, he has railed against Mr. Monti’s measures including an unpopular property tax, which Mr. Berlusconi promised to reimburse in a letter sent to homes across Italy.”
The London Telegraph, which quipped that former prime minister has risen from the dead more times than Dracula, offered three reasons for Silvio Berlusconi’s apparent election victory:
“First, his enormous media assets mean he’s able to beam his message directly in to households without contradiction …Second, while the markets and tabloids associate him with political chaos, for many Italians he is a byword for relative stability within a democratic system prone to anarchy … The third and final reason to vote for Berlusconi is that he gets his own people. While so many other Europeans leaders seem plucked from an international order of grey technocrats, Silvio is a whirlwind of testosterone.”
Given all the scandals and charges of impropriety, do you think Silvio Berlusconi’s reemergence on the political scene is good or bad for Italy?