What's It Like to Have Silvio Berlusconi as Your Prime Minister?
The stream of scandal surrounding the long-serving Italian leader is fodder for punchlines in the U.S. But some people actually have to live with him.
Outside of Italy, the seemingly never-ending stream of sexcapades involving Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi plays mostly as farce not tragedy. But what about in Italy? Milan prosecutors have announced they have enough evidence to call for an immediate trial of the 74-year-old media mogul turned politician on charges "that he paid for sex with a 17 year old and abused his office by calling on the police to intervene on her behalf after she was detained for petty theft in May," The New York Times reports today. Unwavering in the face of these charges, Berlusconi simply announced that he would continue to govern the country and proceeded to do so by presenting a new economic plan at a news conference the same day. We wondered what the people who are actually governed by the libidinous leader have to say and turned to Google Translate (so caveats apply) to scan several Italian newspapers. Here's what we found:
- Writing for the Italian daily business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, opinion columnist Stefano Folli shares his impression that, in the current fight between Berlusconi and state prosecution, "the worst is yet to come." Folli observes that "Berlusconi does not intend to bend, let alone resign," predicting that the Prime Minister "will fight, as was his wont, to the bitter end. He will use all the weapons of politics, law, and media at his disposal. Whatever the outcome..." He also questions what the Parliament will do next and points to current economic issues that may influence the outcome of the case. "The deck seems a bit too short to cover all needs: from the "lash the horse" economic federalism." Despite a "strange feeling that a coup should take shape in the coming weeks, Bossi and the League rule out early elections." But, he clarifies, "this is not an act of faith, but a calculation tied to the strategic goal. A goal that the short circuit between politics and the judiciary could trample."
- In an editorial directed to the Italian Council of Ministers, the Editors of the Milan-based daily, Corriere Della Sera, asked for "real commitments, not false promises," urging the Council to adopt a plan for "bipartisan growth" proposed by Berlusconi in an earlier letter to the paper. The editors observe an uncharacteristic sense of urgency from the Prime Minister to make swift, yet cooperative, decisions with regard to economic policy. The reason his "new line has been embraced now and not in 1994, 2001 or 2008, at the beginning of his three terms" is that, in the face of controversy, he is trying "to show a prime minister again focused on real problems of the country and to blame the problems of poor growth and widespread youth unemployment on the opposition." Disregarding questions of Berlusconi's personal credibility at the moment, the editors praise "the specific credibility of his plan" that aims for three to four percent economic growth over the next five years.
- Alberto D'Argenio expresses frustration with the amount of time that has been taken up by news coverage of Silvio Berlusconi since 2001. In La Repubblico, D'Argenio writes, "Silvio Berlusconi invades the small screen, the clogging of messages, phone calls and meetings." This January alone, "Berlusconi's television presence has doubled, reaching a record time of 160 minutes. All spent to argue, without contradiction, to Rubygate." D'Argenio notes that while Berlusconi has been shielded from press conferences and "uncomfortable questions," he has still been able to "invade the homes of Italians with a marathon of oratory."