Tale of an expected debacle

Article published on May 4, 2008
Article published on May 4, 2008
The day after the Italian elections, my mailbox is set upon by continuous emails full of deception, incredulity, despise (for the Italy of Berlusconi-Bossi) and resignation to the centre-right leader’s results, who has been in the limelight of the political scene for the past 15 years.

In fact, the outcome of these 14 & 15th of April elections had already been announced by political observers who, at the most, may have suggested a tie giving birth to what we call in Italy “inciucio” (a pejorative word for a pre-elections agreement) with the theory of a frankesteinian “Veltrusconi”.

An other forecast that I shared was punctually contradicted: the high level of abstention. Italy ignored the “anti-politics” sirens and proved that voting is the only instrument that we have to change things. Hence my idea to quote  Samarango and the blank ballots revolt in Blindness. But I miserably failed in my attempt and so did my personal theory on the “anti-politics” (or maybe “antidemocratic”) aspect of abstention.

For sure, nobody and certainly not me would have bet on a victory of our “home-made” Obama whose decision to translate the democrat motto “yes we can” word for word suggested an expected debacle (the Italian translation “si può fare” for “that can be made” lost a lot of the enthusiasm of the American one.

The two years long Prodi’s government was not wiped out by Walter’s bus (Again Vetroni followed the American example and reached the Italian provinces by bus, now a symbol of the Democrat Party – DP’s electoral campaign. On board it was easy to believe on words full of hope but the weight of failed reforms (training, precariousness, social security, conflict of interest bill, etc…) was just too heavy for the DP’s engine.

Veltroni might have been the man in 2006 when Italians, weary of Berlusconi’s permanent show, may have trusted his promises and changes would have been possible.

But « Ifs » are not History and we know now for certain that Italy who had stated its tiredness of Berlusconi two years ago has changed its mind.

It is hard to explain the reason of what Le Figaro and La Repubblica called “The Cavaliere’s eternal return”. Even though Berlusconi has lost a lot of his ancient charm and ran a campaign under the sign of  realism which is unusual  (with no magic wand according to Corriere della Sera).

As an Eramus student, surrounded by foreigners all day long, I am now victim of moqueries and I cannot avoid any remarks that would go beyond a inevitable and inappropriate old refrain : “I’m ashamed to be Italian”. Because we carry burdens together and if it is, in fact, a burden, it is only the result of an ambient mentality in Italy, a way of being, from which, I would say, nobody can escape.

Berlusconi is Italy : a country where you are laughed at when you study too much, when you don’t flirt with girls when you’re a boy and when you flirt with guys when you’re a girl; where “feminine and gifted” is an oxymoron; where nobody really thinks that some things should be encouraged (the Italian idiom “metterci una buona parola” – “to put in a good word for somebody” speaks for itself) and where being a good student does not clear the sky on my future.

These badly hidden Italian-way-of-being during the DC (Christian Democracy) government era detonated in 1994 with the famous arrival of the old new man, former stain on the political Italian scene who has now became a permanent feature, almost the country savior.

Beyond my basic sociological analysis, Berlusconi’s presence fills a void, responds to the inefficacity of a more traditional political class. Berlusconi always understands both the worries and necessities of the Italian people, today tired of unkept promises and simply desires to go back to old times, that is when it was less worse.

The popular vote led the country to a new era, Berlusconi III, that transfigured the country’s political face: for the first time in the Republic’s history, the two protagonistic parties in the anti-fascist struggle, socialists and communists are not in Parliament and recorded an unexpected drop in votes. At the same time, a traditional extremist party, racist and anti-parliamentarian, Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord, proved itself decisive in Berluconi’s victory, sign of a scared and reactionary Italy.

The possible scenarios in this configuration of the Italian assembly have been largely debated and depleted during a conference on April the 16th in Sciences Po Paris organized in collaboration  with Luiss Guido Carli  from Rome University, in which have participated Ilvo Diamanti, J.P. Fitoussi, Marc Lazar.

The most interesting thing that emerged added to the numerous problems that the new government will have to face, from the garbage in Naples to the absence of social service network and a non existent growth, was the reflection on the absence of a debate on Europe in the electoral campaign.

None of the candidates mentioned the Constitution, Federalism, nor CAP reform.

However, Franco Frattini’s nomination in the Foreign Affairs department (Vice President of the EU commission) gave hope for a change compared to 2001-2006 when the Boss Berlusconi’s systematic invitations to President Georges W. Bush and his family in his Arcore Palace had inevitably kept Italy away from Brussels.

A Napoleonian quote reminds us that a country’s international politics is function of its geographical position. Since Italy is Europe’s suburb, its marginal role on the European checkers board would prove inevitable despite the key role some famous Italians like Spinelli, De Gasperi and Andreotti played in the European construction. 

Thus, is Italy really a silent guest in Europe’s house ? Will Belusconi be able to respond favorably to the request of Ezio Mauro (La Repubblica’s director) who asked him to start governing in the country’s interest?

Will our new Numero Uno be able to liberate himself from a general mockery and mistrust by collaborating in Brussels to the development of the European project?

Your turn readers to answer that question.

Alessia Farano