The Third Berlusconi Government
The Thrid Berlusconi Government / 2008
As Italy’s leading entrepreneur, media-mogul and politician, Silvio Berlusconi has once again been re-elected to the post of Prime Minister. The richest man in Italy has served terms from 1994-1995, 2001-2006 and currently holds the position as of May 2008. He was the flamboyant founder and leader of the Forza Italia political movement, a center-right party established in 1993. Recently Mr. Berlusconi announced his intensions to establish a new political party, People of Freedom, which will merge Forza Italia and National Alliance. His involvement in so many facets of Italian business and culture make him, according to some, the perfect man for the job. According to those of the opposing view, however, he has an overextended power in the country already. According to Mr. Berlusconi, he is the self-proclaimed “best political leader in Europe and in the World.” But no amount of bravado, or his recent victory, can secure a united opinion as Italian voters remain divided.
He has been to trial on six different occasions for fraud and corruption but has never been convicted. It is widely assumed he has deeply rooted connections in the Italian mafia and remains close while in office. Many who publicly oppose him on television are never seen on-air again. Possibly due to the fact that he single handedly owns the three largest private TV stations in the country. As Prime Minister, once again, he now controls two public stations as well.
His newly appointed Minister of Equal Opportunities, Mara Carfagna, is a known ex-showgirl who he publicly admitted wanting to 'settle down with' despite the fact that he was married at the time, she was not. His other ministers have been called fascists. Some have even promoted the secession of the Northern region of Lombardia which holds its capital seat in Milan, the city from which Mr. Berlusconi originates.
A well-known scandal or achievement, depending on your viewpoint, took place in 2005 with the successful constitutional reform that gave him, as then Prime Minister, additional Presidential powers. Skeptics claimed it was a dictatorial move to secure his chances of re-election in the nearing race.
Despite the mogul’s questionable reputation, this recent election proved Berlusconi victorious in both houses of parliament, even against his strongly supported oppositional rival Walter Veltroni. He capitalized on the nation's discontent with its stagnant economy, one which has underperformed the rest of the Eurozone for years. The unpopularity of the previous Prodi government was yet another advantageous pulpit from which to launch his campaign. He pledged to fight tax evasion, justice reform and public debt reduction. He also showed initiative to please the people and their immediate needs by addressing the growing garbage crisis in Naples. The well-known fourteen year sanitary problem had twice in the past 12 months been at emergency levels. Berlusconi has also made it his personal quest to save the fate of the nation's air-carrier Alitalia, refusing buyout proposals from KLM and Air France. However, through his negotiations with Russian Prime Minister Putin, Aeroflot might be in line to take over instead. Other internal struggles such as the rising crime rate have lead to strict government measures. Domestic crack downs on immigrants spurred by the North League party have been enforced through raids successfully arresting 400 convicts, thieves, prostitutes and drug dealers, mostly from Morocco and Romania.
On the side of foreign policy, the two previous Berlusconi governments have often swayed towards favorable relations with the U.S., a break from Italian political tradition. Although conflicting views remain between many European Union members and the U.S. concerning political intervention in the Middle East, Berlusconi was a staunch supporter of the Invasion of Iraq sending the fourth largest contingent to aid the war effort in 2003.
At the moment the economy is threatened with a recession and workers complain of rising prices and low wages. Berlusconi has warned that Italy faces tough years ahead and he will have to push the country through some unpopular reforms in order to see substantially needed change.
Silvio Berlusconi seems to be no stranger to the issues of a country known for its vigor and turbulent history. With a third term and yet another chance to make history of his own, hopefully this unique man will reinvigorate la dolce vita in the Italian economy and society once again.