Illustration by Valentina Vezzani for Maclean’s magazine. See more here: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/02/23/the-italian-election-and-the-global-economy-a-graphic-novel/
Berlusconi will likely regain control the Senate, barely 15 months after being booted (and booed) out of office. The centre-left couldn’t do better than secure the lower house. No way they can govern the country with that setup — let alone implement productivity-boosting reforms. The bond markets are already freaking out.
In other words, everything as predicted.
Back in 2011, I had the pleasure of interviewing Italian journalist and commentator Beppe Severgnini for an article I was writing about Silvio Berlusconi’s dishonourable discharge from the PM office and the surprise entry of Mario Monti onto the Italian political stage.
“Do you think Berlusconi will ever come back?,” I asked.
Journalists generally ask two sets of questions. There are the sincerely curious questions, where we really don’t know what the answer is going to be; and the get-the-quote questions, when we have a pretty clear idea of what the source is going to say and we just need him or her to say it.
My question was a get-the-quote question. And Severgnini promptly obliged, giving me the smart answer I expected. Berlusconi, he said, was down but not necessarily out. He’d received a formidable political blow but there was no ruling out a miraculous comeback. After all, he had staged a number of impressive comebacks before. I thought so too.
Thirteen months later, things look even worse than I expected in my rather bleak view. Berlusconi is not only back but roaring back. He’s already regained about 30 per cent of the electorate, according to the latest polls. He’s making plainly unbelievable pledges to cut taxes, and went so far as to court the neo-fascist right.
Why, why, why? How can this be? Why is Berlusconi’s brand of populism still so powerful?
Many of us are wondering. As Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah, put it in a Facebook post a few days ago:
Faced by what they perceive as collective decline, wrote Albert O. Hirschman, members of a firm, organization or state have essentially two options: to “exit” said group or to “voice” their critique in the hope of bringing about positive change.
That made a lot of sense to me, when I first read about it in my 101 poli-sci textbook. I was mulling my own exit. From Italy, that is.
A year later I was gone — on to graduate school in the U.S. — with no intention of coming back.
What I had gathered in my 22 years living in Italy was that there were slim chances the place would ever change — at least not significantly and not during the rest of my time on earth. And there was no place for me in an Italy that wouldn’t change.
If I wanted to do anything meaningful with myself, or even have a decent shot at it, I’d have to go elsewhere.
For a long time, I took great pride in having chosen exit. That was the way of clear-thinking people, of the brave, and of those who knew what they wanted. I used to wish my brother and my friends would also “see the light” and leave.
Sometimes I would tell them. Sometimes I held back. But whenever I heard stories about universities taking over a year to process paychecks worth a few hundred euros (the anecdote told with a laugh, because it’s not unusual), a 40-year old mother and physician holding down three jobs because she still couldn’t have her own practice, a job contract demanding that young female employees give “the guarantee of the uterus” for a year (“promise that you won’t get knocked up”) … whenever I heard that, I secretly wished the people I cared for would pack their bags, too.
Today, I am older and wiser, as they say.