Tuesday, April 29

Roma, citta di destra

Sadly, it was no surprise when Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi this month unseated the center-left to take over the job of prime minister once again. But now comes news that the fine city of Rome will have a right-wing mayor for the first time since World War II. Gianni Alemanno, from the People of Freedom Party, "began his political career with the youth section of the Italian Social Movement, a neo-Fascist party formed by Mussolini"(NYT).

Walter Veltroni, the previous mayor, left the gig to vie for the job of prime minister, losing to Berlusconi despite the support of George Clooney. As mayor, Veltroni received his share of criticism for spending his time courting movie stars and promoting tourist-friendly bars at the expense of fixing decaying roads and other infrastructure. But most Romans seemed to be fairly happy with his efforts to recapture some of the city's former glory.

The Times' Elisabetta Povoledo suggests another reason for the right's victory:
The focus of the hard-fought campaign in Rome shifted to citizens’ safety after a woman was raped — allegedly by an immigrant — 10 days before the vote. The attack shocked the capital and recalled an attack in Rome last fall in which a Romanian immigrant was arrested in the fatal beating of Giovanna Reggiani, a 47-year-old woman.
As The Economist points out, the big winners in the latest elections have been the anti-immigrant Northern League (or Lega Nord):
Led by the eccentric and raucous Umberto Bossi, the xenophobic Northern League did outstandingly well. The party almost doubled its share of the vote. It will have the third-biggest presence in parliament and holds the balance of power in the Senate. Soon after the polls closed, Mr Berlusconi echoed some of their agenda, proposing a bizarre scheme to close Italy's frontiers and open camps for the identification of jobless foreigners.
In the Financial Times, SAIS professor Erik Jones says Lega Nord has been successful because Italians are "bitter":
Such sudden increases are more likely to be a sign of frustration and bitterness than any lasting affection for Italy’s xenophobic far right. With the economy turning down, a series of law-and-order problems that people tend to associate with recent immigrants and a general insecurity about Italy’s chances in the global economic competition, Italians have a lot of reasons to be frustrated that their politicians seem so unable to come up with solutions and to be bitter about how difficult it is to see any real changeover in the political ruling class. Mr Berlusconi comes to power riding this wave of bitterness and frustration and more beholden to the Lega Nord than ever before.
Maybe Veltroni, who adopted Barack Obama's "Yes we can" slogan for his campaign, should have gone with the "bitter" rhetoric instead.

For more Berlusconi-bashing, see Philip Stephens, also in the FT
How can Italy recast itself as a vibrant European democracy when its prime minister would be disqualified from office in any and all of the states against which it wants to measure itself?
The thing, though, that should disqualify Mr Berlusconi without the slightest scintilla of doubt is his insistence on retaining his vast media empire. The prime minister-elect owns Italy’s three largest private television stations, two newspapers and a sprawling publishing empire. Try to imagine Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown or even the extrovert Nicolas Sarkozy doubling up as media tycoons. Impossible. It should be impossible also in Italy.
Or Giulia Lagana in the Guardian on Berlusconi's way with the ladies
A rather lacklustre election campaign was livened up by Silvio Berlusconi's jokes, many of which are about the beautiful women he seems to privilege as political partners. "Rightwing women are definitely more beautiful than leftwing ones", he told journalists a few days before the vote. During his previous stint as prime minister, the tycoon turned political leader told delegates from his coalition partners the National Alliance: "I notice some extraordinary pretty legs around here."

No comments: