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Italians Tire of Berlusconi

Italians Tire of Berlusconi

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In a rebuke of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italians went to the polls and voted against renewing nuclear power and privatizing water resources, both strongly supported by the Prime Minister. Further, Italians, increasingly tired of allegations leveled at Mr. Berlusconi, overturned a law that would have granted the 75-year-old immunity from prosecution.
In a rebuke of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italians went to the polls and voted against renewing nuclear power and privatizing water resources, both strongly supported by the Prime Minister. Further, Italians, increasingly tired of allegations leveled at Mr. Berlusconi, overturned a law that would have granted the 75-year-old immunity from prosecution.

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Published by: Journal of Foreign Relations on Jun 16, 2011
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Italians Tire of Berlusconi
Posted on 15. Jun, 2011 by John LymaninEurasia ,Latest In a rebuke of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Italians went to the polls and votedagainst renewing nuclear power and privatizing water resources, both stronglysupported by the Prime Minister. Further, Italians, increasingly tired of allegationsleveled at Mr. Berlusconi, overturned a law that would have grantedthe 75-year-oldimmunity from prosecution.Moreover, despite Berlusconi’s best efforts to discourage a high voter turnout, 56percent of the Italian electorate voted. Previous referendums had failed to meet thenecessary legal quorum of 50 percent voter turnout. Additionally, Berlusconi, whoholds providence over Italian media, relegated the impending referendum to secondtier importance. The referendum comes on the heels of defeat for Berlusconi backedmayoral candidates in Milan and Naples.Because Italian media largely ignored thereferendum and the prime minister himself  urged a boycott it fell on supporters of the poorly funded campaign to gin up support by relying on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. “In addition, the governmentpropaganda machine has been widely employed to compromise the referendum. RAI– supposedly the Italian BBC – failed to inform the Italian public about thereferendum. So deficient has been its referendum coverage that Agcom – the ItalianOfcom – repeatedly called for RAI to increase its coverage in order to better inform thepublic about the consultation. On the positive side, social media has, for the first time,
 
 been used to update people on the vote. Facebook, Twitter and blogs have been usedto reach Italian people outside the zone of Berlusconi’s televisual control,”theGuardian’s Benedetta Brevini writes.However, it should be noted that the Italians rejection of Berlusconi’s energy policyfollows the trajectory of Germany, which announced that it no longer would considernuclear power as the path to the future. Switzerland is considering becoming nuclearfree by 2034. While the French continue to maintain that they will rely on nuclearpower it is not at all clear whether this policy will ultimately survive.Immediately following Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster seven of the oldestGerman reactors were taken offline. By 2022, Germany plans on ending reliance onnuclear power.“We shall have to say good-bye to nuclear [energy],”Berlusconi told a Rome pressconferencefollowing the referendum vote. He added that Italy would be pursuingrenewable energies in the future.While it is doubtful that Berlusconi’s government will fall in the short-term its long-term survival is in doubt. Within the next week a vote of confidence is planned in theParliament. If Berlusconi suffers a defeat following this vote it is unlikely that hiscoalition will hold with the Northern League.Roberto d’Alimonte, Political Science professor at LUISS Guido Carli Universitysuggests , “It’s getting worse and worse, the government is weaker and weaker,Berlusconi is surviving, muddling through…But there’s not yet the end in sight.”Berlusconi’s political problems largely stem from his own design. Italians look on inenvy to other Eurozone states like Germany that is experiencing robust economicgrowth. The Economistaptly described Italy’s economyas “The euro’s Achilles heel.”“Italy’s economic illness is not the acute sort, but a chronic disease that slowly gnawsaway at vitality. When Europe’s economies shrink, Italy’s shrinks more; when theygrow, it grows less…only Zimbabwe and Haiti had lower GDP growth than Italy inthe decade to 2010. In fact GDP per head in Italy actually fell,”The Economist writes.While nuclear and water privatization were defeated, these developments can largely be attributed to factors outside of Berlusconi’s control. Water privatization andreviving Italy’s nuclear power industry can be perceived as transcending party
 
identification, as supporters of the prime minister would argue. In fact, the Vaticaninjected itself into the debate and argued that access to clean water is a basic humanright. Bishop Mariano Crociataargued that access to clean waterwas a “fundamentalhuman right, connected to the very right to life.” Additionally, within Berlusconi’sgovernment, Roberto Maroni, the interior minister and a member of the NorthernLeague, opposed water privatization.As Italians fret over their economic future, Mr. Berlusconi became embroiled inscandals. Further, self-aware Italians became increasingly concerned that they were becoming international laughing stocks due to the supposed sexual exploits of theiraged prime minister.Now that the prime minister is not protected from prosecution he is expected to bepresent at several trials. The most well known involves allegations that he paid for sexwith an under-aged woman. The “Rubygate trial” has garnered international attentionfor the reason that the prime minister attempted to use his position to have the womanreleased after she had been arrested for allegedly stealing a
3,000 bracelet.Other allegations involve the “Bunga Bunga” sex parties where as many as 33 womenwould attend and Mr. Berlusconi would have sex with any number of them hopingthat this would propel their bourgeoning television careers in Mr. Berlusconi’s mediaempire.Allegations of sexual impropriety are not new for the prime minister. The fact that theallegations have been so heavily covered by Italian and international media haseroded the prime minister’s popularity. However scandalous the allegations are, thetrial and eventual verdict will take years to unfold. By then, Berlusconi’s future might be decided by his inability to hold together his coalition with the Northern League.Berlusconi’s political strength has been his ability to read the pulse of the Italianelectorate. While he has previously been described as the “great communicator” hiswanton disregard for keeping his alleged exploits hidden from public view indicatedthat he has lost touch with the Italian electorate and he has misjudged the ability of Italians to accept his many perceived faults.Italians have witnessed their once admired economy falter as other economies havesurpassed it. The public allegations against the prime minister have been an unwanteddistraction from the very real problems facing Italians.

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