The Economist photo
I was living in Italy when Berlusconi was re-elected in the parliamentary elections of April 2008 following the collapse of Prodi’s government and became prime minister for a third time on 8 May 2008. I recall a conversation with my Italian friend right after the elections. She told me she voted for Berlusconi. “I better vote for him. I at least I know what to expect from him…” I was deeply dissapointed as I could see she wasn’t the only one from Italy’s young generation with such approach. I tried not to express my concern loudly with Italians, it would irritate them. Who am I to teach and critise, they would say, when I have own “sins” in my homeland, who would argue indeed. Nevertheless…
… 3 years after this conversation, Berlusconi has resigned and Italy celebrates. I watch online stream from Rome, I follow twitter’s #Berlusconiada. Then I suddenly see this comment by #PeterFein and realize that his tweet has a strong connection with my 2008 disappointment. He writes:
It’s a bit sad for democracy that it took debt markets to remove scumbag
#Berlusconi instead of Italian people.
Of course I am happy for all my Italian friends and I am sending my best regards. But I have developed this sort of self-censorship of not becoming too excited about the removal of certain political figures. “The opposition thinks it is time to uncork the prosecco” as Foreign Affairs puts it, “But it is not. Italy is far from fixed”.
I was about to leave Foreign Affairs’ web page when I suddenly noticed this article “Italy’s Malaise” about Italy’s crisis and transition challenges. Not knowing when was this peace published I started reading. Only then I saw that article was written in July 1976 by Guido Carli. 30 years later problems touched in 1976 article seem more then familiar. Unfortunately the whole article is not available, but even this excerpt is enough:
Italy is in the throes of that most difficult of predicaments, a state of transition. Transition to a more open and egalitarian society; transition to new economic and financial arrangements; transition to a more efficient administrative machinery; transition to greater participation in decisions concerning the place of work; transition to a more important role for women; transition to an expanded influence for parties of the Left. The transition is made all the more difficult by the fact that the hectic, unbalanced economic growth of the sixties, which made tolerable the (lower) pace of social change, has given way to the twin evils of stagnation and inflation. Attention abroad has been largely focused on the drift toward impotence of the government, the crumbling of established authority, the current economic and financial crisis, the turbulent division of society and the growing ungovernability of the country, and above all on the advance of a party calling itself communist, apparently the only one capable of filling the void, since the balance between the parties of the Left in Italy is different from that in other Western European countries as a strong Socialist party does not exist. But the wheels of history are turning fast not only in the political sphere but also in the economic field, and transformations in the latter are both cause and effect of the socio-political changes of the past decade.
As Foreign Affairs writes, when Berlusconi was in office, it was easy for the opposition to blame him for acquiescing to the powerful lobbies and for pampering business cronies, but with him gone, all Italians will have to face the truth. Indeed.
In Bocca al lupo, Italia!