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Friday, 18 May, 2001, 09:21 GMT 10:21 UK
Italian election result: The right choice?
With nearly all the votes now in, the results point to a comfortable margin in the lower house and to a narrower victory in the upper house, the Senate.
Mr Berlusconi will have to rely on his more radical ally - Umberto Bossi of the Northern League - to stay in power.
He will be joined by National Alliance leader Gianfranco Fini who is lined up to become Berlusconi's right-hand man as deputy prime minister.
What do you think? Do you think Berlusconi has chosen the right people to join him? Is this the right choice for Italy?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Of course it is. You don't understand Italian people at all. We need a change and Berlusconi it is the only possible solution at the moment.
There is no way he could be a good prime minister with all the financial interest he has, plus his right tendency in politics would damage the good reputation of Italy as a neutral and loved country from east and west. For sure he will look after his own interest at the expenses of his country.
In this sense, Berlusconi's ability to have himself elected as prime minister reflects exactly what he has been doing for years with his businesses and personal fortune - exploiting Italy's fiscal and judicial weaknesses.
That those weaknesses exist and have been recognised and ignored since the institution of the Republic by all of Italy's previous governments is the lamentable issue.
However I don't think that the one man who has gained most from exploiting the defects in the Italian democracy is the one who is going to resolve them. Nor do I expect democratic reform to figure high on his government's list of priorities.
Whether the centre-right coalition is the right choice for Italy or not, time will tell. Meanwhile one can hope that the foreign press (including the British one) will refrain from patronising the Italians on the basis of their (the UK's media's) superficial knowledge of the country and its political system. In the '80, although Mrs Thatcher's positions could appear disconcerting to many Europeans and many Tories embraced reactionary ideologies, no one called them fascists nor were concerns voiced about the UK's democracy. Whatever Mr. Berlusconi's achievements, I do hope that Fleet Street's gurus will stop lecturing and start looking at the actual facts of the countries they write about.
If Italians wanted a new start for Italy, the last person to vote for should have been Berlusconi: he owes his success to the corruption of the old Christian Democrat regime and its leaders such as Bettino Craxi (who died in self-imposed exile after being condemned on corruption charges). This is a sad day for my country.
Victor Rayed, England
Rutelli's speeches were 80% accusations against Berlusconi and 20% explanations of what he and his coalition had in mind for Italy's future. Berlusconi's speeches were exactly the contrary, he talked principally about gigantic projects for our country. I think that people prefer feeling enthusiasm rather than hate; I think that people prefer dreams rather than resign. Well, Berlusconi has been able to let people hope for a modern, efficient and secure nation; Rutelli hasn't. Lets him try! He could succeed...
People in a democracy should be concerned when a man feels he can only improve upon his financial success by acquiring political success. He is a businessman and has been trained to view the Italian public as nothing more than consumers and viewers in his corporate-media maze. He wouldn't be where he is today if that weren't the case.
I have read the disappointing comments on this page of those people who do not care for the future of our great country. Berlusconi is a competent economist and a modern leader; he will bring Italy high in Europe and in the world. The Italian branch of the Russian red star has been beaten, hopefully forever.
What really worries me is the future Italian role within the EU. Before the election of Mr. Blair as Prime Minister in the UK, the United States used UK as a lever to slow down or hamper the integration process in the European Union. But Mr. Blair supports the EU, so US had to find another "mine". Mr. Berlusconi may do the job, also considering how close Berlusconi and Bush are. Unlike the UK, Italy is fully integrated in the EU, so its action may be more incisive. I really hope I'm wrong and that the German project for a Federal Europe will go on anyway.
What people in Britain need to understand about Berlusconi and Forza Italia is that they represent a new form of right-wing populism. The collapse of the mainstream parties in Italy in the 90s was very dramatic. The centre-left coalition is basically as pro-market as Tony Blair. Mr. Berlusconi, like Thatcher in the 80s, appeals to the middle-class as one of their own; a crude nationalism and an anti-left rhetoric.
Jan-Joost van der Slik, The Netherlands
Italy has the government that it deserves: if Italian people are so blind that they can't see in what trouble they have put the country, this means that they deserve to be led in the next five years by Berlusconi. Everybody who has just glanced his political program for the next five years must have noticed that he just cares about his own good. I think this is the strength of Mr. Berlusconi: he is proud of whatever is a shame for common people, and he always manages to convince the population that he is a victim. Poor guy, he is just left with six televisions and a lot of power that will allow him to clear his debts with justice!
I think that it will be a big change for Italy, because it is a great country with a great potential especially on the industrial side. Why not to give to Italy the chance to reach the level of most of European countries?
No, I don't think our choice was right. Yes (I hope), Mr B could turn out to be less evil than he looks now, thanks to good choices in his team - eg: the Northern League has suffered heavy losses, and its leader's first declarations after the vote sound to me as pre-emptive bids to secure top posts that might go elsewhere. The neo-fascists also look weaker. These two are the worst elements of the picture, the rest of the alliance being a strange mixture of former Christian democrats and socialists (!) aiming at the money, power and success Mr B epitomises so well. If a few respected, independent personalities will join the team (and manage to mute somehow a ranting leader), it could be not totally bad news for Italy.
Mr Berlusconi represents for Italy what Rupert Murdoch is for the UK - man who has a power on people's brains and who is linked with great economic forces. Unfortunately, he is a man who brings a little more confusion between the real power the European democracies are going to lose, and the actual and current power of business and money...
Whether he is the "right" person for Italy is something only the Italian electorate have a right to decide, and they have decided that they want him as their leader. I wonder how long it will be before Europe decides the electorate should be over-ruled and a left-leaning leader imposed on them, as they did with the democratically elected Freedom Party in Austria.
The world's fed up of the so-called "centre" calling themselves "democrats", and the others "non-democrats". The hysterical cries of the Italian centre and the efforts of Al Gore to manipulate the election results in the US, prove who's the real non-democrat. It's them that want to draw lines, which help them conceal their inadequacy when it comes to the real issues. Berlusconi won because his rivals' programme was to thwart Berlusconi, they had NOTHING positive to put forward on their own record. Hague will win because Blair's NOTHING else to say but to thwart Hague. Whoever campaigns with no programme other than thwarting someone, LOSES.
Berlusconi is the right man for Middle-east, not for Italy.
He is not a liberal, he loves power and he thinks he is the best in the world. Forza Italia is not a party; it's a corporation, a danger for freedom and for all true liberals
How long before the EU decides that the electors of a sovereign country were wrong by not choosing a socialist and start a diplomatic boycott as they did with Austria?
The primary issues in Italy, as well as in all of Europe, are immigration and the degradation of the culture, and Berlusconi and Fini are the men who will bring order and determine whether Italy's heritage will survive or be driven to extinction by the forces of Leftist Utopians.
He is the right man for my country, not because he's fit to rule, but because if 43% of my fellow citizens (not me) vote him, he IS Italy. At least the worst part of it..
Silvio Berlusconi is not powerful enough to constitute a threat to freedom of the press. However, his dodgy past as well as the very low political culture he has displayed during the campaign reveal an opportunistic man with a vague political programme and minimal intellectual capabilities. Rutelli is not a saint, not even a social democrat, from what I understand, but Italy would be served better under his reign. So I believe.
What we need is not "the right man", not another superman, but efficient and patient servants to the rule(s) of law.
Mr Berlusconi [aka "Il Cavaliere"] just finished
showing to the whole world how easy it is for a
rich and corrupted businessman, buying a whole
nation and serving it hot to whoever [US?] wants
to stop the EU progression towards democracy and
co-operation. Disgusting recipe indeed.
This isn't an ideologist fight, in fact we voted the "Home of Freedom" only because we don't like what the centre/left coalition did during the last five years. Now is time to change.
I am not particularly happy with the victory of a would-be businessman (although his companies have a high debt-to-capital ratio...) and who has been unwilling to divest his media interests (fundamental to secure his return to office). My misguided compatriots probably need to have the man in authority for a few years, so that they will see his inability to fulfill his electoral promises. Italy has understood that it had to get rid of the Christian-Democrats, but visibly not what to replace their corrupted system with...
Democracy cannot be achieved in a country where politics is considered a mere instrument of power. We Italians inherit this from the age of the Roman Empire, without changing mentality since then. We also tend to forget our history, repeating the same mistakes over and over. Berlusconi will be just another bad governor as all the previous ones.
This is a strange day...should I to be happy or not ? Anyway vox populi wins, no doubt. But surely it is a lesson for the left: never manage a campaign against one person...people don't believe in this. Berlusconi seems to have several ideas in mind, Rutelli seems to have just Berlusconi in mind... viva l'Italia and stay with us!
The Italian leftist propaganda has definitely done a good job discrediting Berlusconi abroad using either false accusations or nevertheless charges mostly not supported by evidence. As for the candid souls who are worried about freedom of speech if Berlusconi were to win, they should instead be more worried by this leftist campaign of misinformation.
Berlusconi is no saint nor will he solve all Italian problems, however he will do a better job in governing Italy than Rutelli whose life accomplishment, good or bad, are too few to be remembered even by his supporters.
If this man is Berlusconi or not nobody can say for sure, but what is worrying is the fact that he holds so much economic power, and that he hasn't a very clean and clear past. Rutelli is not really a communist, he would simply continue the same policies his "Olive Tree" party colleagues have had until now.
So, no Berlusconi would not be fit to govern, because of his financial power, it's as if Rupert Murdoch became the new Australian prime minister.
As a famous Italian journalist said, I hope Rutelli wins, because he is the least dangerous to democracy of the two.
They are very hard times for Italy. I've voted Centre-Left but I'm not communist (I think that Communism is death). I've voted Rutelli because I think that Berlusconi is dangerous for my country, democracy, freedom and the poor. His allies (Bossi and Fini) are against immigrants, gays, and they come from an ex-Fascist Party. It is not good for Italy or another any country.
Italy is probably one of the most democratic countries in the world. Its main problem is it is too democratic. Berlusconi is no more of a danger than Thatcher was. In actual fact he will not have control of the entire media. The government-run media RAI will be regulated by the government not by Berlusconi, he is not a dictator and never will be. I hope that people will bear that in mind before jumping the gun by saying he is a danger to democracy.
I really do not understand why foreign people speak about the Italian political situation without knowing the situation here. Try coming to Italy to deal with bureaucracy or to run your own business activity and you will realise the meaning of fighting against the left parties. In five years they have not been able to do anything of good for the country. Actually, I am hoping for a deep change in the Italian situation.
Italians are facing a difficult choice,
after a shameful election campaign
based on mutual insults rather than
facts about the actual programmes.
Mr. Berlusconi is unfit to govern but Mr. Rutelli, the left wing candidate, is no better: while he was Rome mayor ha squandered
about £1 billion pounds in cosmetic changes
which were good only for tourists, not for the inhabitants of the city. A vote for smaller parties would be useless.
We all envy the British for their
efficient democracy. Unfortunately we are very far way from the British system
What is the difference between Berlusconi's potential dominance in the political realm in Italy and the Vatican's true monopoly in the religious? The Italians have been taught to follow this kind of leadership. The Pope has said publicly he wishes to recreate Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire, and so the Vatican needs more politicians like Berlusconi in Europe.
Berlusconi, through his empire, controls a lot of the media in Italy. What will happen to freedom of speech and democracy if he wins?
As an Italian living in the UK, it astonishes me that people would actually vote for someone like Silvio Berlusconi. Everything he stands for oozes with corruption, greed and lies. The most amazing this is that my fellow compatriots seem to want this individual in power of the country. It seems as though he has been able, in one way or another, to brainwash the majority of the population. I just hope people see this before it is too late....
Chuck, Atlanta, USA
I don't understand why everyone is so concerned about Mr. Berlusconi's leadership and the next Italian government. His government will likely last as long the one in 1994, and we will all be reading soon about post-War government number 60.
Berlusconi in my eyes would be a better candidate to win the election in Italy. A man of such great success would do well in running a country like Italy. This is possible only if the people join him in doing the work as is supposed to be. Viva Berlusconi, viva Italia.
Italy is a country that judges people mostly on material basis, how they dress and what not. So, I think it will be wonderful if they would be led by a man of great materialism.
Just some facts. Hard-core communists are _not_ sitting in the government in Italy. They caused the fall of the Prodi government by leaving the cabinet.
The "same useless bunch" is not the one in power now: they are solidly behind Mr Berlusconi. If Craxi wasn't dead, he'd be campaigning for him.
As for this being the Italians' business entirely, that's simply either very short-sighted, or the opinion of somebody who's got something to hide. Nothing is just one nation's business. It wasn't Nazi Germany's business, it wasn't Serbia's business, it wasn't Rwanda's business. It's the business of anybody, anywhere, that cares for democracy and honesty.
I'm not familiar enough with Italian politics to really say, but insofar as Berlusconi is being attacked by pompous media know-alls across the globe, he must be doing something right. At any rate, he's at least something of a character, one not another political automaton, which is a refreshing change from the Blairs and Hagues of the world.
It is clear that the vote in Italy will be against the left not pro Berlusconi.
We need positive personalities like Emma Bonino but she will be kept very far from any room of power just because is too positive.
The question is an interesting one, but the answer is irrelevant. The reason: the system of proportional representation designed to keep the communists out of government since the war does not permit ANY person to govern Italy. Unfortunately it is time for Italians to "hold their noses", vote for Berlusconi, and hope that his majority is so big that he dares to change the electoral system. Then Italy might have a chance of showing Europe and the world what it is capable of instead of just providing light entertainment at election time.
Let's face it: Italian politics has always been different from the rest of the world's. Whether or not Mr Berlusconi is fit to run the country is not for me to say; however, since so many parties in the country have so many internal problems, Mr. Berlusconi's "Forward Italy" group may be the solution to the great democratic problem.
I think that Mr Berlusconi must solve the problem of "conflicts of interests" before the elections.
Every civil country solved that, in the past.
As an Englishwoman living in Italy and married to an Italian I will be voting today. Although in England I have no doubts as to whom to give my vote to; my family has voted Conservative for generations. Here I am put here in a very difficult position as I will certainly not vote for Berlusconi and what he stands for. I agree entirely with the recent article in "The Economist" and I was suprised when Italian friends said it was such a "strong" piece.
However, who now do I vote for? Do I vote left for Rutelli? I certainly will not vote for anybody connected with Andreotti and his past whatever the result of the court cases have been. Should I vote for some small party which would mean my vote not really counting at all? After weighing up the case I feel I have only one possibility voting for Rutelli which "tradisce" my British heritage!
Armen Shahnazarian, Italy
It's purely a matter for the Italians I guess, but I was in Italy last time Berlusconi was in power, and he was utterly resented by the vast majority of people I met. Certainly he had the approval of a lot of Italians, but it's never a good thing when politics becomes so polarised, as we in the UK know from the Thatcher years. Successive polls showed her to be the most admired and most resented leader of all time.
What would really help Italy at this time would be a leader who would unify and build bridges, rather than increase the divisions. Somehow, I don't think this is going to happen, whoever wins.
I find it incredible that someone like Berlusconi is even allowed to be a candidate seeing as he owns numerous TV stations, newspapers, publishing houses etc. I'm sure that if this happened in the UK people would be outraged! The other night he was on his TV station for several hours, lecturing the party faithful. Admittedly Rutelli was on another of his stations but in a completely different situation, answering tough questions from the unemployed, minority group representatives etc.
I'm sure we'd all like to see a Rutelli vs Berlusconi debate. Wonder why Berlusconi doens't agree to it?
Imagine a scenario where Robert Maxwell became UK Prime Minister before charges against him were proven. Perhaps Berlusconi isn't a Maxwell, but money and influence have bought him power without any degree of certainty over his true motives.
Benj'min Mossop, UK
Surrounded by scandal, accusations of bribery, breaking the law, and having the presence of a dodgy second hand car salesman. If you ask me it seems Mr Berlusconi has an impeccable politician's CV.
I can't see that he will be any
worse than any other Italian
government. Naturally, his coalition
is composed of some of the most
"right" mainstream groups in Italy.
Extremes in a group tend to be destabilising
but this has been Italy's main problem anyway - putting together a large enough group of like-minded legislators in the deputies.
Mohammed Argungu, Nigeria
Let's hope the Italians don't do as the Americans did and make this a popularity contest based on "disgusting" advertising and campaign tricks. A quick look at the outcome of the American election should help the undecided one third decide which way they want to go.
It does not matter as long as the old useless bunch goes home. They have been there for 50 years and think that they have a claim to it by Divine right. Regardless of what the European media says, Rutelli's choice would be a disaster for my country. The man is just a Green and has made of the historic monuments of Rome a public toilet.
It's for the Italians to decide - but the answer is still no.
Erind Maci, Albania
It seems difficult to have a leader of a country who has a string of charges hanging over his head. But at least he would have something in common with our president Jacques Chirac.
Seeing as how Italy has had more than 50 prime ministers since the end of World War II, it is unlikely that he will be around long enough to do any damage.
He is the right man, since he has proved to be successful, and his progress during the last seven years is admirable.
Berlusconi, who was a member of the secret P2 in the Seventies and had links with the Mafia, will reduce Italy to a Latin-American styled banana-republic.
Don't know if Mr Berlusconi is the right person to run this crazy country or not but for sure the centre-left is not the right coalition for our country. I believe that Italy is the only country in Europe, maybe with the exception of Byelorussia, where there are still hard-core communists sitting in the government.
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