Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Berlusconi Subversion of Italy

One of my favorite newspapers is the Rome daily La Repubblica. It is intelligent, Left-leaning and editorially honest. Today, the paper is on the bleeding edge of New Media, exploiting the Internet (podcasting, streaming audio and visual) in launching Repubblica Radio and Repubblica TV.

Founder Eugenio Scalfari is a brilliant commentator and contributes weekly comment on Repubblica Radio in his program, La Scalfittura, where he scathingly analyzes The Berluconi Subversion of Italy.

Below is a partial transcript (the translator is Nur) of his 13 April appearance. (Link here). More to come.

One thing Berlusconi cannot stand is losing. He can’t take it. He is not technically able to accept a defeat, especially when the margin is small. Furthermore, the defeat was delivered by what was supposed to be Berlusconi's cunning ploy to prevent a loss at the polls –the new electoral law. At the last minute, it boomeranged, with a 25,000-vote victory going to the Opposition in the Camera [lower house of Parliament]. And the Opposition was awarded 25 extra seats as an electoral bonus.

I once knew Berlusconi up close and personal when he was a simple TV impresario. And I say, impresario, because an entrepreneur gets ahead by relying on his own talent and not on political support. Berlusconi got ahead exclusively through his political contacts. And once they empowered him and gave him the tools, he became very good impresario –even a splendid impresario! I know him very well. At first, as competitors, we had a cordial relationship. But later we became bitter enemies after he attempted a hostile takeover of the Mondadori Group and my newspaper, La Repubblica, along with all the other newpapers of the group.

He always promises you milk and honey. He shows up with a huge vat of it and spreads it around; he lets you enjoy a thorough sample. He asks what you want. A pig with wings? The moon in your own backyard? He says he’ll give it to you! You ask for guarantees. In fact, you don’t even ask for the moon. You just want a few concrete conditions. He’ll say, “Done!” He says he’ll call together his staff in the morning and arrange everything for you. He says he accepts all your conditions. But the next day you find out that he summoned his staff, only to tell them They want this and that, but we’ll give them exactly the opposite. This is how he works. This is the way he is. Recall that thi is a 70+ year-old individual and he’s not going to change.

And this Grosse Koalition talk is not just smoke and mirrors. If somehow he squeaks through, if he wins a majority, with a recount, etc., then you will see a Grosse Koalition --but with conditions. Some sort of institution must be built around him, he will nominate all the cabinet ministers, etc. He’s the one who wants the moon in his backyard.

There's a rumor that’s circulating, although I don’t personally believe it, that Berlusconi arranged for 400,000 phony ballots to be cast. But here's Berlusconi complaining about voting fraud and this leads to frayed nerves. This is extremely dangerous. A democracy can’t survive in a cauldron of suspicion --the situation which Berlusconi has created. And he disposes of the means --extremely efficient means through the media— of spreading rumors. This is a danger to democracy.

I remember a similar situation in 1946, when Italy had the referendum on the monarchy. The monarchists instigated the rumor that the Minister of the Interior had diverted a million votes from them. It never happened but the legend persists. Today, if you talk about that vote, some people will claim that the republic came about as a result of voting fraud.

Democracy thrives on certainty, which relies on rules. There are rules in Italy that deal with election disputes. Contested, non-attributed votes can be inspected at the request of the parties concerned. The Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court can look into it. Other types of voting irregularities can be reported to the Parliamentary Elections Commission. But these measures require time --to formulate the request, etc.-- but in the meantime institutional procedures continue. And there’s even a third way; to file a lawsuit before an ordinary magistrate. But these steps cannot be taken based on some vague claim of voting fraud. The grounds must be specific: In voting district xyz, fraud is suspected. In such an instance, only the ballots of xyz district can be reopened and recounted. You can’t go around demanding a recount of a million votes, just like that!

What I feared was that Berlusconi would inflate this cloud of voting fraud with his talk of involving the UN no less, churned by all his operatives–the pundits, reporters and talk show hosts -- for weeks. This is shameful! It is subversive because it is a contravention of our laws. And it appears that when Berlusconi met President Ciampi on April 12th, he asked Ciampi to issue a decree forcing a recount of a million votes. And this was before the Supreme Court had ruled! It seems that Ciampi told him that the document required a Presidential signature and that he was not going to sign it because it represented an end-run around existing rules.

(To be continued...)


Blogger Postman said...

"I once knew Berlusconi up close and personal when he was a simple TV impresario. And I say, impresario, because an entrepreneur gets ahead by relying on his own talent and not on political support. "

Hey Nur I'm impressed ... what a name dropper not heard such name dropping since I last spoke to Marlon Brando.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

p-man, I rather think that Scalfari was merely trying to emphasize how well he knew B's duplicity.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Postman said...

Apologies, merely trying to raise a smile which a cartoon in Il Giornale does today with a cartoon of a Judge knocking the nails into a coffin labelled Freedom !.

I understood Berlusconi frere is responsible for this entertaining newspaper.

Apparently B is quoted as saying ( in CDS) Italy is like the US it is the Judges who decide elections and is going to count the votes in parliament personally ... very very slowly.

That assumes of course that he CAN count.

12:35 AM  

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