Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Berlusconi attack: Italian press review

After an assailant wielding a model of Milan's cathedral broke Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's nose, the Italian media were united in their condemnation of the incident, seeing it as a sign of a dangerous polarisation in the country's politics.

In Il Corriere della Sera, the country's leading daily, Pierluigi Battisti said a primitive version of politics had become dominant "with a crescendo of hostility that touches on an anthropological war between two Italys that hate each other, and are incapable of talking."

The attack may have been carried out by a lone, unbalanced assailant, he said, but the atmosphere of political hostility make such people feel they fit into the "flow of history".

"Those present at Berlusconi's rally had the very clear sensation that those who challenged him were animated by an indomitable, exasperated and absolute hostility against an Enemy who is not even granted the right to speak."

"Now this climate, which has reached its peak with the incident in Milan, needs to be cooled and surpassed."

In the left-leaning La Repubblica, which is fiercely critical of Mr Berlusconi's politics, Ezio Mauro was one of several to see an echo of the extremist political violence that plagued Italy in the 1970s.

Even though [Sunday's attack] is luckily isolated and the fruit of madness, nothing less than freedom is in play
Ezio Mauro, La Repubblica

"Friends and adversaries, supporters and opponents, need today to show solidarity with the prime minister - as we do - without any differentiation.

"And they must build a wall against the insanity of this gesture, first and foremost because it is extremely serious in itself and also because it can foster the kind of tragic period that we have already tried and tested, during the worst years of our lives."

"Even though [Sunday's attack] is luckily isolated and the fruit of madness, nothing less than freedom is in play. The freedom of Berlusconi to deploy his policies coincides with our freedom to criticise him. This space for freedom is called democracy. Let's defend it."

In Il Sole 24 Ore, Stefano Folli argues that "this extremely serious incident in Milan should force a moment for serious reflection across politics, for both the governing coalition and opposition.

"It does not matter that Berlusconi's attacker seems to have been fanatical… What matters is that this hooliganistic act came about in an exasperated and uncivil climate."

He notes that despite a comment from one opposition politician, Antonio Di Pietro, suggesting that Mr Berlusconi had somehow brought the attack upon himself, in the hours after the incident other opposition figures had expressed unreserved solidarity with the prime minister.

"Let's hope that this is the sign of a sudden and necessary leap in quality of the political debate," he writes.

Lucia Annunziata in La Stampa says "the real question that needs to be posed is whether the opposition's approach has become a hate campaign."

"The prime minister has always maintained this in recent months and repeated it at his rally in Milan. Now after the attack, everything seems to prove him right."

"Will he use this test to take strength for the contest, to heighten the tenor of the disputes, or will he find, as the fear in his eyes suggested, some sort of good reason to calm things down before they get out of hand?" she asks.

For the opposition, "now that the risk of violence has materialised, the discussion over how the government conducts its fight should… break with personalisation and focus completely on the political aspects of competition," she writes.

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