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Chaos in Italian Regional Elections

by de Gondi Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 01:43:47 AM EST

The political situation in Italy continues to be critical. Despite his talking points repeated ad nauseam, Berlusconi's decree has caused a backlash against his personal political entity, the PdL, throughout Italy. It is perceived as a measure to save his party- and only his party- in key electoral contests in Lombardy and Rome, while other parties had been excluded already on similar grounds both in the past and in the present regional elections. Moreover, the general public is accustomed to paying heavy fines for personal errors and late payments to local and national agencies. It is no wonder that Berlusconi's party has plummeted in the polls 17 points to an all time low. The PdL party strategists estimate that at best they may win only five regions.

promoted by afew


The decree has galvanized the various oppositions. There have been hostile demonstrations all over Italy since the decree was signed into law late Friday. Legal initiatives have been taken on both sides in what has become an electoral lists war. But the regional administrative justice in Lombardy did not admit the decree in their favourable decision to readmit the eternal governor Formigoni for his fourth run for office. On the contrary, in Lazio the judiciary declared that the decree could not supplant regional law and ruled against the PdL lists in the city and province of Rome. The judges ruled that the PdL had presented incomplete documentation past the deadline and were therefore to be excluded.

It is hardly the end of the story. Other regions and various parties are meditating on taking the decree to court on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. Piedmont and Tuscany have already announced they will take action. But a legal battle will go on long after the elections with the risk that the elections be declared null by the constitutional court in at least the two regions.

Many citizens, well versed in the national art of dietrologia (the conviction that there is something hidden behind the events), believe that Berlusconi pushed the decree through to create the possibility that the elections could be nullified in the case he loses by a landslide. It appears more likely that Berlusconi reverts habitually to the inflammatory mode when in a difficult situation. According to Bruno Vespa, a TV reporter close to Berlusconi, he had menaced the President of the Republic Napolitano last Thursday in what Vespa characterizes as tantamount to the assassination of the Archduke at Sarajevo. Napolitano duly signed the decree. His actions and justifications have sharply polarized opinion. His reasons appear arbitrary, since the decree applies to but one party as if all the other parties excluded over the years were in the B series. Perhaps it would have been better had he not sought to justify himself. His remark today that a respectable democracy does not need courageous acts is unfortunate.

The corruption scandals continue to take their toll on Berlusconi's popularity. His closest advisors are under investigation and daily revelations of their conversations depict a sordid gelatinous clique of thieves, as they jokingly define themselves. A single exchange was enough to throw off Berlusconi's ill-conceived plans to put Civil Protection above and beyond accountability: As the earthquake hit Aquila, the clique was laughing with joy at how much they would cash in on the upcoming reconstruction racket. Bertolaso was calling numbers within hours. Berlusconi hasn't dared to return to his week-end jaunts in Aquila since. For the past four weeks, the citizens of Aquila have broken through police barriers with wheel barrels to cart away the rubble left a year in the centre of the city. Berlusconi's exalted idea was to build 19 satellite towns outside the city and flooded the news with his Truman Show crackerjack houses replete with megaplasma screens. The people of Aquila want their city back.

The local RAI station has protested against the false coverage in the national news. Their reportage is systematically trashed wherever it contradicts the Berlusconi fairy tale. Although Berlusconi has abolished in depth news programs until after the elections, people are getting the story. Certainly Berlusconi continues to be inventive. On Sunday he interrupted one of the country's most popular sports programs to broadcast a political speech. A captured audience with other matters on their minds- delaying a report on Palermo's victory may not have pleased spectators.

Display:
"Berlusconi pushed the decree through to create the possibility that the elections could be nullified in the case he loses by a landslide."

Is this a throwback to Mussolini and the fascists? Or is Berlusconi just another Reagan-Thatcher wannabe? Or is it that I'm just too ignorant about European politics?

So when you make pasta, do you put some oil in the water or do you not do so?

by shergald on Mon Mar 8th, 2010 at 08:12:19 PM EST
Unlike Reagan and Thatcher, Berlusconi owns or controls the television of his country. While they were intent on destroying mid-twentieth-century Keynesian economics and institutions, they did not seek to shake public faith in their countries' democratic institutions by bringing them into disrepute. Berlusconi seizes on every opportunity - particularly when he is up against difficulty or open opposition - to up the ante and push political institutions to the brink. Whether that makes him a Mussolini clone or just a Mafia-driven loonie is moot.

Let's hope he's bitten off more than he can chew this time.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 01:41:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So when you make pasta, do you put some oil in the water or do you not do so?

in my experience, italians usually don't, but they often add a teaspoon or so of raw EV olive oil drizzled over the freshly strained pasta, or over the served dish itself.

salt in the cooking water seems to be essential, however.

nothing could be more italian than to morph the conversation towards food at any time!

:)

now back to flying cathedrals...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 06:49:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Think of him as the Hugo Chavez of the right, and you'll get pretty close.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 07:34:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Despite his talking points repeated ad nauseam, Berlusconi's decree has caused a backlash against his personal political entity, the PdL, throughout Italy.

This, despite the near-total media lockdown he is able to enforce?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 01:45:44 AM EST
Civic society consists of a minority of the population. It's a minority that innovates in any nation. Unchecked democracy is authoritarian in nature as it relies heavily on a hardcore of sanfedisti, "holy faithers", who are easily manipulated. (Flaubert admirably describes this mass in Bouvard et Pécuchet. It's his democraperie, which needs no translation. After all, he lived under Napoleon III, the closest paragon to Berlusconi.)

What Berlusconi does control are the strategic media. He as yet does not control internet, nor could, despite a bill presented two weeks ago that would regulate internet. As the bill stands, internet sites could not broadcast live or deferred streaming without a license. Blogs would be subject to the same laws as television and newspapers.

So internet does play a major role in broadcasting news and mobilizing civic society. Berlusconi's attack against information has provoked a collapse in TV audience and is generating the same phenomena that occurred in the States during the Iraqi War: People interested in knowing what's going on turn to the net or, alas, Sky which has refused to comply with government directives- just as Berlusconi's channels. Berlusconi's hardcore will continue to watch his televisions or the state RAI.

There are also free papers that are distributed throughout the cities that carry the news of all major scandals. The major establishment press, such as the Corriere della Sera or la Stampa, are doing their job in exposing the scandals, scandals that have the narrative ingredients to capture public interest. There's everything for a great thriller: hard sex with Vatican choir men, rampant cynicism, involvement of the secret services, a Nazi art dealer who brags of murdering a dozen men funnelling billions of euro through Panama, Berlusconi's closest collaborators (Gianni Letta and Denis Verdini) compromised with criminals, high placed judges, prosecutors and Senators on the take, the `ndrangheta families throughout Europe relaundering money for this gelatinous clique.

So it's a relief to see a New Zealander politician resign because he bought two bottles of wine with a government credit card. But it won't make a novel.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 03:45:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Napoleon III, excellent parallel!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 04:28:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many in Italy have noted the parallels between the two.

It is a curio that while Forza Italia was in the planning stage in 1992, Berlusconi published a limited edition of "Machiavelli's Prince annotated by Napoleon" to distribute to his closest collaborators. The text is a historical forgery made by the genial Maurice Joly, an acute observer and adversary of Napoleon III. Joly's extraordinary masterpiece "Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu" is a blueprint for seizing and administering power, inspired by Napoleon III.

Anyone who wishes to understand berlusconismo, or power in general, will profit from reading Joly's text. Berlusconi has applied his lessons to the tee.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 04:57:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Available in English translation here.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 05:48:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks! I recommend the commentary by John S. Waggoner.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 06:36:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maurice Joly

Machiavelli: I would begin by creating a ministry of the police, which would be the most important of my ministries and which would centralize -- as much abroad as domestically -- the many services with which I would endow this part of my administration.

Montesquieu: But if you would do this, your subjects would immediately see that they were enveloped in a frightening net.

Machiavelli: If this ministry displeases, I would abolish it and I would, if you like, name it the Ministry of State. Furthermore, I would organize in the other ministries corresponding services, the great majority of which would be founded, quietly, in what today you call the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You will understand perfectly well that here I would not at all be concerned with diplomacy, but uniquely with the means capable of assuring my security against factions, as much abroad as domestically. So, you can believe that, in this connection, I would find the majority of the monarchs in practically the same situation as I was in, that is to say, very disposed to seconding my views, which would consist in creating international police services in the interests of reciprocal security. If I were to attain this result, which I do not doubt, here would be some of the forms in which my foreign police services would be produced: men of pleasure and good company in the foreign courts, who have their eyes on the intrigues of the princes and those of the so-called exiles, banished revolutionaries among whom -- for money -- I would not fail to find some to serve me as agents of transmission with respect to the schemes of shady demagogy; who would found political newspapers in the great capitals, printing houses and bookstores placed in the same conditions and secretly subsidized to follow closely the movements of thought through the press.[1]

Montesquieu: It would no longer be against the factions in your kingdom that you would end up conspiring, but against the very soul of humanity.

Machiavelli: As you know, I am not afraid of great words. I would want things so that any statesman who would like to form cabals abroad would be observed, noted from point to point, up to the moment of his return to my kingdom, where he would be incarcerated for good so that he could not be in the position to try again.[2] So as to have the thread of revolutionary intrigues better in my hand, I dream of [implementing] an arrangement that would be quite clever.

Montesquieu: Great God! What would this be?

Machiavelli: I would like to have a prince of my house, seated upon the steps of my throne, who would pretend to be dissatisfied.[3] His mission would consist in posing as a liberal, as a detractor of my government, and in rallying -- so as to observe them closely -- those who would like to perpetrate a little demagogy from the highest ranks of my kingdom. Insisting upon domestic and foreign intrigues, the prince to whom I would confide these missions would thus play a game of dupe with those who would not be in on the secret of the comedy.
snip...
Machiavelli: Perhaps there would be real conspiracies, I am not sure, but there would certainly be simulated ones.[7] At certain moments, when the prince's popularity has decreased, they could be an excellent means of exciting the sympathy of the people in favor of him. By intimidating the public spirit, one could thus obtain, if needed, the severe measures that one would want or one could maintain those that exist. False conspiracies, which of course could only be used with the greatest restraint, would have another advantage: they could permit me to discover real conspiracies, by giving rise to investigations that lead one to seek everywhere the traces of what one suspects.

Nothing is more precious than the life of the sovereign: it would be necessary that he is surrounded by innumerable guarantees, that is to say, innumerable agents, but it would be necessary that this secret militia[8] is quite dissimulated, so that the sovereign would not have the air of being afraid when he appears in public. One tells me that in Europe such precautions have been perfected to the point that a prince who walks the streets can have the appearance of a simple citizen who promenades amongst the throngs without being guarded, whereas he is actually surrounded by two or three thousand protectors.

Moreover, I would have my police officers sprinkled among all the ranks of society. There would be no meeting, no committee, no salon, no intimate foyer in which one could not find an ear to hear what is said everywhere, all the time. Alas, for those who wield power, the facility with which men are made into paid informers is a surprising phenomenon. What is even more surprising are the faculties of observation and analysis that develops among the political police; you have no idea of their ruses, disguises and instincts, of the passion they bring to their work, their impenetrability; there are men of all ranks who pursue this trade -- how can I describe it? -- due to a kind of love for the art.



'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 04:30:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you sure that it's by Joly? I can't find any reference in any of the Wikipedia articles (English, German, French) to him being responsible, though a 2004 Repubblica article says
Dicendo che è questo il modello cui s' è ispirato Berlusconi, si deve anche dire che il Dialogo di Joly non risulta tra i suoi "testi" di riferimento. Il Dialogo di Joly no, ma una delle sue fonti principali invece sì: Il Principe di Niccolò Machiavelli annotato da Napoleone Buonaparte, archetipo della sinergia machiavel-bonapartista, che Berlusconi pubblicò come «dono di Natale 1992-Capodanno 1993» per «gli amici più cari».

[...]

Quanto al fatto che il commento al Principe di Napoleone Buonaparte sia un falso, non sembrava turbare più che tanto il futuro capo di Forza Italia, che scrive: «è una singolare strumentalizzazione politica di una grande autorità culturale: un' ulteriore testimonianza delle fortune de Il Principe»

The only other reference to the annotated edition I could find was a Spanish translation for sale on Amazon with no indication that it's a forgery (and the Napoleon in question is Buonaparte).
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 05:20:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I was in secondary school I had to do a term paper on The Prince and the edition I read was the one annotated by Napoleon (Bonaparte).

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 07:42:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm wrong. The Repubblica article you cite may be the cause of my confusion of the false Machiavelli translated and annotated by Napoleon with Maurice Joly. Over time I confounded the two.

The false version was likely written by Aimé Guillon. It was published in 1817. In the decades following Napoleon's defeat there was an enormous production of false works and paraphernalia attributed to Napoleon. The alleged original book and Guillon's copy have never been found.

The history of the Spanish version is interesting: the Napoleonic version was translated in the 1930's and apparently had enough success to continue to be republished. The controversy over its falsehood seems not to have touched Spain. In France Jean de Bonnot published the text in 1985 asserting that it was authentic. However, researchers now agree it is false, remarking that de Bonnot had "stacked the deck" by making a false claim about an inventory in the Bibliotheque Nationale dated 1827.

The Berlusconi version makes no secret that the annotations are false. The book is presently very difficult to find. The original was a limited edition (1000 copies) while the version put in commerce is long out of print.  

The forgery is considered to be very astute to the point it could have been written by Napoleon but I think we will have to call Borges on that.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Mar 11th, 2010 at 05:20:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe it required Napoleon III to ride out and promptly get captured by the Prussians in order to finally discredit him. Perhaps the EU could arrest B?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 01:39:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'd need a Bismarck...
by Bernard on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 03:14:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Civic society consists of a minority of the population.

Let's say 15%...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 02:32:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting percentage. I suppose it varies from country to country. I also don't think it depends directly on what regime. The population of Damascus is very well informed despite it all. It certainly depends on the extent to which the strategic media are controlled by elite trusts over time. Or effective participatory democracy at neighborhood levels. Anybody got a list of factors to throw around?
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 05:27:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe it has to do with cognitive styles and is therefore nearly universal?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 05:44:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess that would work for a minimum but then there are such factors as alphabetization or local conditions that encourage solidarity, therefore an awareness of social responsability. Sicilian familism and selfish charity wouldn't go far as social models in Finland.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 06:53:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
a Nazi art dealer who brags of murdering a dozen men funnelling billions of euro through Panama

What?! :D That is crazy enough to be added to this list!

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 08:05:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
let's hope this snowball keeps moving down hill
by paving on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 01:58:39 AM EST
The popular reaction sounds like the US reaction to "The Saturday Night Massacre under Nixon during Watergate, but Italian Style.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Mar 9th, 2010 at 01:41:40 PM EST
Guardian today:
Amid national controversy, the Kepler scientific secondary school today became the first in the Italian education system to install condom vending machines for students. The machines, in the girls' and boys' toilets, will sell cut-price condoms just a few miles from the Vatican; the Kepler is in a lower-middle class district of Rome, just outside the city's ancient walls.
Could "John Hooper in Rome"'s boss tell him to cover the real news? I can't find anything about the election controversy in the paper.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Mar 10th, 2010 at 05:32:11 PM EST


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