Speaking at a regional election rally, former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi criticized the violence with which current Prime Minister of Italy Matteo Renzi has been forcing his will on Italy’s parliament.
Mr Berlusconi has also accused Mr Renzi leading Italy down an authoritarian path, which, it has to be said, is more or less what he himself wanted to do.
Coming from a man who dictates his own political party’s every move who despite endless scandals, gaffes and pending court cases, staunchly refuses to step down as its head, that’s a bit rich. A comment to that effect was made by a member of Mr Renzi’s cabinet. Definitely a case of the pot calling the kettle black, even if the newish kettle in question is not yet that black. So, what irked the ire of Mr B?
Aside from the fact that Mr Renzi is actually succeeding where Mr Berlusconi failed in that he’s actually passing the kinds of reforms Mr Berlusconi supposedly wanted, the aging tanned media mogul is most unhappy about the reform to Italy’s electoral system which Mr Renzi virtually bulldozed through Italy’s parliament.
Why is Berlusconi so upset about this particular reform? Probably because it more or less scuppers the chances of the Berlusconi alliance, coalition, or whatever from being elected into power ever again.
Mr Berlusconi had more or less written the previous electoral system to ensure his party and its allies gathered enough votes. Even if they didn’t win, they would have enough of share of the vote to demand a voice in Italy’s parliament and this is precisely what happened after elections in 2013 when an unholy coalition of Italy’s left and right was born. It got nowhere on the reform front. This was no huge surprise to this Italy watcher.
Italy’s political parties tend to bicker incessantly amongst themselves at the best of times and that’s when they lie on more or less the same side of what passes for a political spectrum in Italy. Creating a government of factions from both Italy’s left and right was bound to raise the volume of the bickering to ear splitting levels, except it didn’t because Mr Renzi’s predecessor, Enrico Letta, decided to keep his head down and avoid doing very much at all thus keeping the quarreling to manageable levels, only Italy got no reforms. This situation was fine by Berlusconi who lurked in the background hoping for a window of opportunity – only it did not come. Indeed, the situation worsened for Italy’s old lady loving
whoremonger warhorse. Mr Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud and, aside from the ignominy of having to perform community service for the elderly, the conviction has prevented him from holding public office and standing for election.
Realizing that Enrico Letta was getting nowhere fast, Mr Renzi came along, ousted the lackluster Mr Letta, and kicked off with the infamous Nazareno pact between himself and none other than Silvio Berlusconi.
While Mr Renzi’s behind closed doors Nazareno agreement raised eyebrows in Italy, Mr Renzi probably had no other option, or else saw the open arms of Berlusconi as a weakness to be exploited. Mr Renzi probably knew that if Berlusconi got his little agreement, he’d keep relatively quiet and let him get on with reforming Italy. If this was the strategy, it worked.
One can imagine both parties to the infamous, secretive, Nazareno pact sealing the deal with fingers tightly crossed behind backs, at the same time clutching freshly sharpened daggers…just in case.
Maybe, but we shall never know, one of the terms of the Nazareno pact was that Italy’s courts would be asked to treat Mr Berlusconi with a certain degree of leniency. Mr Berlusconi’s acquittal in the Ruby bunga bunga affair suggests this might have been the case. However, Silvio Berlusconi is not one to keep promises and Mr Renzi would have been well aware of this – hence the dagger.
That Pact Ends
On the run up to the election of Italy’s current president Mattarella, the pact faltered but did not fracture. Then Mr Renzi dropped his bombshell and Mr Mattarella was elected as Italy’s next president much to Mr Berlusconi’s dismay. The Nazareno pact ended very shortly and publicly after Mr Mattarella’s election sending a very strong message that Mr Berlusconi’s had reached rock bottom.
As if that weren’t enough, Mr Renzi then went ahead with his electoral reform leaving Mr Berlusconi with that salt rubbed into wound feeling.
The recent attacks on Mr Renzi by Mr Berlusconi are what happens when an old wounded lion has been injured but not put out of its misery. As big game hunters will know, wounded animals can still attempt to attack. But the electoral reform had become reality. Berlusconi had not only been wounded, he’d been locked up in a cage and the bars are keeping his blunted claws from finding their objective.
An End to the Berlusconi Election Strategy
Under the previous electoral system, Berlusconi’s allies, in an attempt to appeal to as many right wing factions as possible, had split into a number of smaller parties. There’s the NCD, the New Centre Right party, the FDI, brothers of Italy and his own Forza Italia party, as well as the Lega Nord – Northern League – party which had always jumped into the Berlusconi’s camps bed at election time.
The NCD, led by, Angelino Alfano, the man who was once expected to take over from Mr Berlusconi as the leader of Forza Italia, was designed to soak up votes from more moderate right wing voters.
The FDI, on the other hand, targeted those Italians who still favour fascism and lastly, there’s the reborn Forza Italia which is for voters who long for Berlusconi’s return. Throw in the Lega Nord, which is swinging ever more towards the extreme right and add a dash of the now virtually non-existent UDC, a curious centre-right party which has supported Mr Berlusconi in the past, and in the event of elections under the former election system, and Mr Berlusconi’s coalition would probably have earned itself enough votes to, if not obtain a majority, win enough seats to be able to exert its will on whichever government ended up in power. Well, that was the tactic of the past.
Now though, the new election system, which won’t come into effect until mid 2016, will mean that the divide and conquer strategy of Silvio Berlusconi and his multiple allies will no longer work.
Mr Berlusconi, and, for that matter, Italy’s right as a whole will need to form one larger party to keep the “communists” at bay but this is unlikely to happen seeing as Italy’s right is in complete and utter disarray. Some on Italy’s right would dearly love Mr Berlusconi to retire but he doesn’t want to even if at times he has been claiming he would like to.
The Big Berlusconi Sell-Off
As you may have heard, Silvio Berlusconi is in the process of selling off large chunks of his business empire. His football team, AC Milan looked as if it was on the point of being removed from his control, though the sale appears to have fallen through, for now.
Also reputedly up for sale are large sections of Mediaset though just what will be sold off and when is still very much up in the air.
Rumors are also floating around that Mondadori, the Berlusconi family publishing business may be sold off.
On top of this, and owing to his tax fraud conviction, Mr Berlusconi has been forced to reduce his shareholding in the Mediolanum bank.
Sooner or later though, pieces of the Berlusconi business empire will be sold off and Mr Berlusconi will find himself with a large pot of cash. The question is, what will he do with all the money?
Cunning Plans of Cash Rich Berlusconi?
A few theories have been surfacing. One is that Mr Berlusconi will use the cash to restructure and refocus his businesses and prepare them for the future.
Another is that once he has more cash in the bank, Mr Berlusconi will engineer his political comeback either exerting his influence directly or as a string-puller.
In an attempt to rebuild Italy’s right and, presumably, to achieve success in future elections, Mr Berlusconi has proposed an Italian equivalent of the US Republican party. Whether this idea will come to anything remains to be seen.
Perhaps he will do both – sort out his businesses and re-enter politics, or, goes yet another theory, he might might retire and bunga bunga off into the sunset leaving his businesses in the hands of his children who should be able to put the cash he is working on raising to good use. There’s also the vague possibility that one of Berlusconi’s spawn may end up in politics – guided, no doubt, by the almost invisible hand of her, or his, father.
What Mr Berlusconi is reluctant to admit is that Mr Renzi has more or less ended his political career.
At nearly 80 and with his popularity at an all time low, Mr Berlusconi no longer has the energy to rebuild Italy’s right around himself and some in his own party do know this.
That his wrath was recently directed at Mr Renzi appears to indicate that Mr Berlusconi knows that he has been out maneuvered by a commie (who isn’t).
Maybe someone close the Italy’s power-hungry Lothario will take him aside and whisper into his ear: “better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all” and suggest that the time to retire has arrived. Will Silvio Berlusconi listen to such friendly advice? How long is a piece of, old, string?
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