It is a historical fact little remarked upon nowadays, but for much of the last quarter century, Italy has been extensively testing a Donald Trump prototype. Its name is Silvio Berlusconi. The results have been mixed, but then again what isn’t in Italy? The whole country is a beautiful mess.
It’s hard to believe that while the American MAGA version has been in place now for over a year, the Italians are still continuing their trials (and tribulations) of Berlusconi 4.0 (or is it now 5.0?):
He may be trying to pitch himself as an elder statesman, but as Silvio Berlusconi voted in Italy’s general election his past caught up with him when a topless woman leapt on to a table and cried out his name.
If the 81-year-old former prime minister had any illusions that he was back at one of his bunga bunga parties, they were quickly shattered as the woman … yelled out “Your time is up!” before she stage-dived a group of photographers and was bundled away by police in Milan.
She had the words “Berlusconi, you’ve expired” written in black marker on her topless torso.
Elsewhere in Italy, things were more pedestrian as long queues formed while officials explained complicated new anti-fraud procedures to voters…
Many will have been prepared to wait, since Italians have been hanging on for 10 years for a chance to elect a government, ever since Berlusconi took office in 2008.
His resignation in 2011 was followed by a government of experts led by Mario Monti, a former EU commissioner, before a stalemate at the polls in 2013 pushed Italy’s President to cobble together a coalition led by Enrico Letta, who was later pushed aside in a palace coup by Matteo Renzi.
That means no Italian under the age of 28 knows what it is like to elect a government.
Of all the broken and corrupt political systems in Europe, Italy’s been always perhaps the most broken and the most corrupt. Sadly, after Berlusconi 1.0 had finally destroyed the Christian Democrat/Social Democrat post-war duopoly in the early nineties, no leader, centre-right, populist, new left, technocrat, or other, has been able to (or even willing to) seriously start addressing the big structural problems of the Italian governance, economy, and society.
And so, here we are again, in 2018, with an 81-year old (!) Berlusconi competing with the new wave of European populism for yet another vote which is unlikely to change anything for the country itself, as it stumbles ahead, there but for the grace of God another Greece, but with more style and more attractive people.
Arthur Chrenkoff blogs at The Daily Chrenk, where a version of this piece also appears.
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