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The FuTure oF The WesTern LiberaL order

The Case oF iTaLy


Gianfranco Pasquino, Bosch Public Policy Fellow James L. Newell Paolo Mancini

2012-2013 paper series No. 2

The Future of the Western Liberal Order: The Case of Italy


Transatlantic Academy Paper Series January 2013

Gianfranco Pasquino,1 James L. Newell,2 and Paolo Mancini3

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Leaders, Institutions, and Populism: Italy in a Comparative Perspective. . . . . . . . . . . 3 The Berlusconi Legacy: How has Italy Changed and What Remains? . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Silvio Berlusconi: His Uniqueness and Universality . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Gianfranco Pasquino is a Transatlantic Academy Bosch Public Policy Fellow and professor at the Bologna Center at Dickinson College and the SAIS Bologna center of Johns Hopkins University. He served formerly as professor of political science at the University of Bologna, and was a senator in the Italian Senate between 1983 and 1992, and 1994 and 1996. Jim Newell is a professor of politics at the University of Salford. His research interests include political corruption and scandal as well as Italian politics. He is founding co-editor of the Bulletin of Italian Politics and co-founder of the U.K. Political Studies Associations Italian Politics Specialist Group. Paolo Mancini is a professor at the Facolta di Scienze Politiche at the Universita degli Studi di Perugia. His research focuses on the relationship between mass communication systems and the political system, and on the study of electoral campaigns.

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Introduction
Stephen F. Szabo

he Transatlantic Academy co-sponsored a conference with the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America in their impressive library setting in New York on December 5, 2012. The conference was one of a series the Academy organized as part of its ongoing examination of the Future of the Western Liberal Order. It followed a major conference held last spring on the state of the liberal order in Hungary and a fall conference with the Munk School of the University of Toronto on the state of the liberal order in North America. Bosch Public Policy Fellow Gianfranco Pasquino was the intellectual architect of the meeting, which was intended to assess the state of the liberal order in Italy, the impact of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconis years in office on Italian democracy, and the lessons from that experience for the broader Western liberal order. The conference and these papers, which resulted from it, explore the following questions: One year after Berlusconis exit from the Palazzo Chigi, will the style and culture he brought to government over the past generation be seen to have exited with him? Berlusconi oversaw a period in which Italys democratic procedures, already historically weak, saw marked deterioration. The countrys internal polarization, populist politics, clientelist culture, structural economic weaknesses, regional imbalances, and politicized media were all exacerbated during his time in office. In the postBerlusconi era, how are Italys structural problems being addressed, and what major challenges remain? To what extent is the Italian experience limited to Italy and to what degree is this a case in a larger complex of issues and trends being confronted by other Western democracies?

Italy: An Anomaly but Still Part of the Western Liberal Order Gianfranco Pasquinos paper on Leaders, Institutions and Populism Italy in a Comparative Perspective argues that although trends in Italy can be seen in other national contexts, Italys is an exceptional case, or as he put it, an anomaly. Italian politics has been and continues to be characterized by deep polarization and the politics of anti-politics and populism. Berlusconi stands out from other European political leaders by his wealth and his lack of embededness in the party system. During the Cold War period, the Christian Democrats and the Communists kept anti-politics under control, but with the end of this party system, Berlusconi exploited a more open period of Italian politics to the fullest. The replacement of his rule by the apolitical technocratic government of Mario Monti continues this tradition of non-party rule. Pasquino describes and analyzes the fragmented and decomposing party landscape, which he calls extreme multipolarism. While Italian democracy is quite different from other European democracies, it remains firmly rooted in the Western liberal order. Its institutions, economic system, and citizens are in this order and support it. There is no serious competing model in the political discussion. Despite the Berlusconi years, Italian institutions, especially the courts and the office of the president, worked and were able to limited the damage. Berlusconi was unable to subvert the existing institutions. The parliamentary system proved to be solid. Italy is a democracy of limited quality, but has not undergone a process of de-democratization. The Berlusconi Legacy James L. Newell looks at the longer-term legacy of the Berlusconi years and the question of the extent

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to which the former prime minister is part of a larger problem in Italian politics. He concurs with Pasquino that Italy remains a liberal democracy whose constitution and rule of law continue to function. He makes a clear distinction between Berlusconismo and fascism. The latter has a broad political program and sought to use social control as a means of shaping its version of a good society, while Berlusconismo used the media to create passive spectators rather than active citizens. In many respects, Berlusconi reinforced and perpetuated deeper problems and traits of Italian politics like corruption and conflicts of interest, and the political impact of his use of the media remains unclear. His impact on public policy was very limited given his primary motivation to use power to protect his personal interests, and thus he left no real legacy (such the liberal revolution he had promised early on in his tenure). It is on the party system that he had a major and negative impact, bringing it to near bankruptcy and preventing the consolidation of a robust bi-polar party system. His legacy remains a negative one but not one that ever posed a threat to Italian democracy. Television, Berlusconi, and the New Politics Paolo Mancini, while seeing the Italian exceptionalism of Berlusconi, emphasizes the broader universal tendencies he represents and has helped shape. These include first and foremost the transformation of politics and society into an audience democracy in which citizens become consumers or audiences rather than active shapers. Mancini sees the commodification of politics or lifestyle politics as the result of both the role of television as well as the deeper individualization of society. In this society, ideas of community, mass organizations, and the common good are replaced by individual feelings, attitudes, identities and needs. Italian society is especially susceptible to this transformation due to its particularism and the primacy of private over public interest.

So we are left with an Italy in the Western liberal order but with very distinctive Italian characteristics. As one of the commentators at the conference asked, was Berlusconi part of the Italian biography or an accident? The answer provided by these papers leans more toward placing him in the biography and psychology of the nation, someone who reflected deeper cultural and political problems and tendencies and made them more severe. Yet the problems of oligarchy and excessive wealth, of excessive individualism, corruption and loss of public purpose, of political polarization and policy ineffectiveness, of media manipulation and the anesthetization of citizens is hardly limited to Italy. The Italian experience, therefore, offers warning signs as well as lessons for all liberal orders. As a number of commentators at the conference pointed out, the Italian economy was weak before Berlusconi, but he showed no desire to make changes to the weak system while the left made only light and halfhearted attempts at change. The entrance into the euro was a game changer, changing the way Italy was governed. Prior to the euro, Italian governments compensated inefficiencies through devaluation of the lira. This is no longer possible. One result is a bifurcated labor market, with young people working in temporary jobs, waiting for the lifetime job. Italy has lot of things going for it, but the weak political system weighs down its competitiveness. Public debt continued to grow during the Berlusconi era. While Il Cavaliere is likely to remain a factor in Italian politics, Italy now has a new chance to begin to get serious about its economic, social, and political problems, many of which he made worse but few of which were his responsibility alone.

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Leaders, Institutions, and Populism: Italy in a Comparative Perspective


Gianfranco Pasquino
it is true that between 1861 and 1911, there had been a significant expansion of the suffrage and a consolidation of what still was a limited democracy (by far preferable to many traditional authoritarian European regimes), it is also true that it was a maleonly democracy challenged after 1921 both by the Fascists (Italys genuine and authentic contribution to world politics) and by the Communists. After 1945, when the suffrage was extended to all women, Italian democracy became a mass democracy, founded on strong and true mass parties. For domestic, but even more, for international reasons, it was also a difficult (not necessarily besieged) democracy. Though domestically playing the democratic game, it should not go without notice that the Italian Communists were almost totally subservient to the foreign policy of the Soviet Union. Moreover, the international constraint was very visible because the Iron Curtain cut though Italian territory. The city of Gorizia was divided into two halves and a passport was needed (and utilized) to go from one part to the other. Thus, the Cold War was and remained a significant factor in Italian politics, so significant that the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 must be considered the truly decisive event in the post-war transformation of Italian politics. An Anomalous Political System Unaware of the debate on U.S. exceptionalism (now somewhat transformed by those who label the United States as the indispensable nation), Italian politicians and organic (Antonio Gramscis term) intellectuals formulated and discussed the concept of anomaly. For a long time, that is, from the mid-1950s to the beginning of the 1980s, both the Christian Democrats and, more often, the Communists boasted that Italy represented a positive anomaly among Western democratic systems. The simultaneous presence of two quite large peoples parties (Volksparteien) prevented the, nonetheless always weak, Italian capitalist

n order to provide a decent explanation and interpretation concerning the three elements in the title of this paper, the analyst is obliged to take a very long view. The past, the present, and the future of Italy are bound together and, in a way, especially with reference to leaders, institutions, and populism, they reveal the existence and persistence of a common theme. My preliminary statement is that there exists a sort of Italian exceptionalism, but I want immediately to add two very important caveats. The first caveat is that all alleged exceptionalisms must be defined through a comparative perspective, that is, those exceptionalisms can be said to exist and can be identified largely because one has or, according to some agreed-upon criteria, is capable of establishing what is normal. Indeed, a convincing definition of political normalcy becomes absolutely indispensable. In our case, normalcy must be defined with reference to the Western liberal order: free and fair elections, rule of law, free-market economy, and protection of a variety of civil, political, and human rights. The second caveat is that one should never be satisfied just by saying that some leaders, some institutions, and some manifestations of populism are exceptional. Exactly because we know that there is no rule without exceptions, we have the scholarly duty to attempt to explain the exceptions. Incidentally, by so doing, we will become capable of redefining the rule itself and we will contribute not only to better theorizing, but also to the improvement of existing theories. Comparing the case of Italy with a normal, ideal case may serve well both purposes. Introduction I will start making a few simple and schematic statements of facts that should not be forgotten, especially because they have had and, to some extent, they still have an impact on contemporary Italian politics and several of its protagonists. In 1945, Italy was largely a new democracy. While

From the mid1950s to the beginning of the 1980s, both the Christian Democrats and, more often, the Communists boasted that Italy represented a positive anomaly among Western democratic systems.

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Berlusconi has unscrupulously exploited some of the worst features of the Italian national character and its unsolved problems.

bourgeoisie from achieving political power. It also contained the promise of more profound significant transformations still to come. Notwithstanding the impossibility of political rotation in the government (the so-called imperfect two-party system: an imperfect definition of the imperfect functioning of the political and party system), the Communists seemed to be rather satisfied with their alleged capability of governing from the opposition. In fact, not even when rotation in the government seemed to be a distinct possibility, that is, in the critical elections of 1976, they did declare themselves available and equipped. Instead, they offered a historical compromise to the Christian Democrats. Deprived not only of a true and full rotation in office, but even of the likelihood of its feasibility, both the Communists and the Christian Democrats began to decline. From a joint electoral figure of about 73 percent of the national vote in 1976, they plummeted to 46.5 percent in 1992. One major component of the alleged positive anomaly, already most dramatically affected by the fall of the Berlin wall, was defeated forever. Since there was no longer a Communist threat, the Christian Democratic bulwark could no longer be considered necessary. After a couple of years, the Christian Democrats (DC) disintegrated while the former Communists (PCI) started their long search for a new political definition and location. Several small parties tried to capitalize on the decline of the DC and the PCI, but they have all remained small and weak, and some have simply disappeared.1 The entire party system had to be redefined, and it remains in flux. The subsequent not so positive anomaly was the taking of the field by a powerful media tycoon, Silvio Berlusconi, followed by his immediate stunning electoral victory in 1994. Now that he seems to be going down into history, no
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analyst ought to underestimate, even less deny that, for better or for worse, Berlusconi has dominated Italian politics for almost 20 years.2 Not just an extraneous body to the history of the Italian Republic, that is, not simply the product of a negative anomaly in an otherwise wellfunctioning democratic regime, Silvio Berlusconi has been capable of providing political and social representation to many strata and voters whose preferences and interests were not even understood or considered politically acceptable by the former Communists and several of the former Christian Democrats. At the same time, however, Berlusconi has also strained all Italian institutions, the presidency, Parliament, and the judiciary, and most certainly has debased the quality of Italian democracy. His political ascent and power have long roots in Italian politics. Berlusconi has unscrupulously exploited some of the worst features of the Italian national character and its unsolved problems. Once represented by the Christian Democrats, the petty bourgeoisie and solidly antiCommunists, found their knight and supported him election after election. Having already proved its resilience in absorbing the long-lasting Communist challenge, the Italian democratic framework had no difficulty in obliging the neo-fascists to accept the rules of the game, albeit through Berlusconis coalitional intermediation. Finally, too long confined to politically correct muteness, all anti-Southern attitudes and feelings and all sentiments of Northern diversity and separatism found their repository and vocal representative in the Northern League. On the whole, the politics of anti-politics and populism, which had run through Italian history since the beginning of 20th century and had only
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James L. Newell, Parties and Democracy in Italy (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000).

Paolo Mancini, Between Commodification and Lifestyle Politics. Does Silvio Berlusconi Provide a New Model of Politics for the Twenty-First Century? (Oxford: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2011).

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been hidden and, in different forms, kept under control by the Communists and, slightly less, by the Christian Democrats, resurfaced in a powerful way and was successfully branded by Berlusconi as well as by the Leagues leader Umberto Bossi. Nothing comparable can be found in any other European democracy, old and new, West and East. To be more precise, in some European democracies, one can find separatist parties, for instance in Belgium, Spain, and the United Kingdom (the Scottish Nationalist Party). In other countries, such as Austria and France, there may exist strong right-wing populist parties. But in no political system would one find at the same time both populist parties in office and, for that matter, even governing together, as they had since 1994 in the most important, wealthiest, advanced, and technological region of Italy: Lombardy. Incidentally, this fact also sheds a lot of light on two phenomena: the weakness of the Italian left (that, however, has recently won the office of mayor of Milan for the first time since 1993) and the attitudes and preferences of Italian civil society, in this case largely expressed, channeled, and organized by the Catholic militant movement called Comunione e Liberazione and its political wing/ weapon the Compagnia delle Opere. Italian civil society, in the region where there is the highest standard of living, the highest level of education (and some of the best universities) and the greatest concentration of manufacturing and financial activities, has harbored, without any apparent contradiction, a set of strong and consistent antipolitical and populist sentiments. Though there are faint signs of change because of a lingering crisis both of Berlusconis and UmbertoBossis leadership, the Lombard case contains more than one element of anomaly. Contrary to all existing theories of democracy, in the most developed Italian region, a significant amount of anti-politics has provided the political breeding ground for a long-lasting manifestation of successful populism.

While tycoons, especially oligarchs in Russia, may attempt to have a significant presence in politics, there is nothing comparable to Berlusconi. Of course, Russia is not a democracy and, though Berlusconi says that he is Putins best friend (especially after the end of George W. Bush political career), the Russian premier is not an oligarch. All other European democracies are instances of party government, and their heads of government have all been party men and women emerging out of usually rather long political careers. There is not much that can be generalized from Berlusconis experience: it is an exceptional phenomenon giving substance to the concept and practice of Italian exceptionalism. Nevertheless, there is a lot to be learned, as we will see, from a comparative perspective. In fact, it is highly instructive to focus on the political and institutional conditions opening the space necessary for the eruption of populist leaders into democratic politics. Populism is the most frequently used label to describe a variety of problems and perils affecting several European democracies. It is a sort of pass key. Some scholars3 have come to the conclusion that a small dose of populism is inherent in all democracies. It may even be good or useful, generating stimulating reactions conducive to improvements in the quality of that democracy. Populism is nourished by anti-politics and, in a sense, thrives by cherishing it.4 The best starting point to understand its presence in the Italian case is provided by the attitudes and the evaluations of Italian citizens with respect to politics. In survey after survey, the overall assessment is clear.
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While tycoons, especially oligarchs in Russia, may attempt to have a significant presence in politics, there is nothing comparable to Berlusconi.

Yves Mny and Yves Surel, Democracies and the Populist Challenge (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002). Marco Tarchi, LItalia populista. Dal qualunquismo ai girotondi (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2003); Daniele Albertazzi and Duncan McDonnell (eds), Twenty-First Century Populism: The Spectre of Western European Democracy (London, Palgrave MacMillan, 2008).

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Both the Christian Democrats and the Communists kept anti-politics under control, but without making any serious efforts to eradicate it.

Anti-politics is the dominant sentiment. The word politics evokes feelings of dissatisfaction, disgust, and anger. Rarely is the word politics associated with interest, participation, or dignity. Anti-politics has long and deep roots in the Italian political system. At the time of the enlargement of the suffrage at the beginning of the 20th century, anti-politics became strictly interwoven with antiparliamentarism. In a way, the so-called Italian school of political science (Mosca, Michels, and Pareto) gave a sort of scholarly legitimization to all critiques of democracy by pointing to the existence of a ruling class in all political systems. While it would not be true to say that either Mussolini and fascism were the product of anti-politics or that they contributed to its diffusion, one should not underestimate the deliberate attempt to depoliticize large sectors of the Italian population. In fact, only the Catholics were allowed, in a relatively indirect manner, to continue some proselytizing with limited political content. Fascisms dominant trait was neither populism nor anti-politics. It was a combination of the cult of personality (il Duce is always right) and the lack of rules that produced unconditional obedience and subservience. Anti-politics re-emerged for a short time, in the form of the Everymans Movement (Uomo Qualunque), between 1945 and 1953, as a reaction to the democratization of Italy. Qualunquismo was led by a flamboyant though mediocre playwright, Guglielmo Giannini. It quickly lost its impetus. The qualunquisti did not disappear, but it is likely that they were absorbed by the two major parties in the head-on, sharp, and tense Cold War confrontation between the Christian Democrats and the Communists. Though quite different in the structure of their parties and in their way of making politics, both the Christian Democrats and the Communists kept anti-politics under control, but without making any serious efforts to eradicate it. The discovery of systemic

corruption in 1992 was a boost for all those who had always harbored feelings against politics and the politicians. However, what is important to stress is that the resurgence of anti-politics has found a fertile breeding ground in Italy. It is like a river that runs below the surface for some time, emerging suddenly and as suddenly disappearing, but always flowing and capable of taking advantage of the weaknesses of the political parties. Those weaknesses were quite visible in 199394. They were further exposed by the reform of the electoral law imposed upon Parliament by a referendum initiative. Two elements deserve special attention. First, once reformed in 199394, the electoral law created a new situation that, on one hand, traditional parties proved unable to understand in terms of opportunities and constraints, and, on the other, obliged the voters to ponder how better to channel their preferences. Second, though started before the reform of the electoral law, the process of implosion and destructuring of the parties and the party system was substantially accelerated by the new patterns of electoral competition. Though surprisingly capable of absorbing the consequences of the redefinition of parties and the party systems and of the electoral impact, Italian governing and representative institutions were challenged. Insistent requests for their adaptation and for drastic reforms were launched by the two populist leaders but not exclusively. Overall, the Italian traditional or classic parliamentary democracy was declared by some politicians, several commentators, and few political pundits not to be the only acceptable game in town any longer. Chronologically, the third quite significant anomaly is represented by the Partito Democratico (PD). However, since any discussion of the PD must involve a larger and deeper reflection on the party system, I will postpone the analysis of this anomaly. Here, I will deal with the most recent

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anomaly, the most startling one from a comparative perspective: the formation of a fully non-partisan government in November 2011 led by a professor of economics, former European commissioner, and newly appointed senator for life, Mario Monti. By all means, non-partisan governments are most certainly an anomaly in a European political and institutional landscape characterized by party governments. In principle, though this appears neither necessarily positive nor negative. The crisis of Italian parties and their vacillating capability to create stable governmental coalitions had already given birth to two previous less-than partisan and largely non-partisan governments. In 1993, the then-governor of the Bank of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who had no previous political experience, was asked to form a government in the aftermath of a wave of popular referendums that might have changed the shape of Italian politics forever. In fact, the parties quickly rearranged the method of state financing of their activities (and organizations/ apparatuses) and revived some ministries that the voters had abolished. Fundamentally, Ciampis government was meant to supervise the drafting of a new electoral law and to obtain parliamentary approval for a decent budgetary law. At least half of Ciampis cabinet ministers came from academia and, though their political and partisan preferences were no secret, the government as such was in no way pursuing partisan policies. And no party could claim what Ciampi had achieved to its electoral advantage, even though some timidly tried to. In December 1994, the early collapse of Silvio Berlusconis government opened the way to a more truly non-partisan government. Led by Berlusconis former minister of the treasury, Lamberto Dini, himself not a member Parliament, the government was entirely made of non-parliamentarians. It enjoyed both the strong support of the president of the republic, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (19921999), who had masterminded its birth, and the confidence of large sectors of the Italian Parliament

to the exclusion of Berlusconis disgruntled deputies and senators. Dinis government (January 1995-February 1996) partially achieved its mandate. It drafted a seriously overdue reform of the pension system, but it proved unable to lead the parties to a similarly serious reform of the institutional circuit Parliament/Government. One must not be misled by the fact that the third non-partisan government has appeared 15 years after Dinis resignation. Most of those years have been marked by party bickering and governmental instability, especially when the center-left was in office. The years Berlusconi was in office (2001-2006: 2008-2011) were an endless confrontation between the prime minister and all the other institutions, namely the judiciary and the presidency of the republic. As a tribute to Italian Constitution-makers, all Italian institutions, especially Parliament, the judiciary, and the Constitutional Court, proved, together with the presidency, quite resilient. None has suffered any irredeemable damage. There is a long way from the government led by an anti-political entrepreneur to the government led by an apolitical technocrat, but as a matter of fact, the failure of the first created most of the conditions that allowed the ushering in of the second. Though often criticized for not being the product of an electoral competition (not chosen by the voters, as if the heads of government in parliamentary democracies were empowered by the voters and not by their parties and their coalitions), Montis government is fully legitimate according to the Italian constitutional rules. Article 94 succinctly, but clearly states that the government must have the confidence of both Houses. The highly political role of the president of the republic is as clearly recognized by article 92: the President of the Republic appoints the president of the Council of Ministers and, on his/her proposal, the Ministers. Obviously, Italian parliamentary parties fully retain the power to defeat Montis government by

As a tribute to Italian Constitutionmakers, all Italian institutions, especially Parliament, the judiciary, and the Constitutional Court, proved, together with the presidency, quite resilient. None has suffered any irredeemable damage.

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By all measures, the Italian party system, as it had been known between 1948 and 1992, collapsed between 1992 and 1994.

depriving it of their confidence. To be very precise, the existing parties have not lost the power to dismiss the government. They have lost access to all governmental portfolios. However, this is an exceptional situation unlikely to last beyond the state of emergency caused by the economic and financial crisis. Italys next government will most likely be staffed with men and women having a party affiliation, being chosen by their own parties and representing them. Still, none of the political, institutional, and economic problems of Italy will automatically and easily disappear. Thus, notwithstanding all partisan objections, Montis government has not suspended Italian democracy, not even party politics. In a way, for those who like formulae, Montis government means non-partisan government5 as distinct from and opposed to party government (degenerated into partyocracy), both, though, within a democratic framework. Nonetheless, from a comparative perspective, the Italian technocratic government represents an exception or an anomaly vis--vis all European governments and even with respect to the Greek government, which is also led by an economist, AntonisSamaras, but most of whose ministers are party politicians in good standing. How Did We Get Here? There can be little doubt that Montis government came about as the consequence of the failure of all Italian parties. The center-right governing parties had lost any governmental capabilities and their parliamentary majority was being gradually eroded by defections. The center-left parties did not have either the parliamentary numbers or the political cohesion to offer a credible alternative to the incumbent government. All they could ask for was an immediate dissolution of parliament in order
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to take advantage of the poor performance of the government. However, they could not get it because the President of the Republic was adamantly opposed to such early dissolution for several good reasons. Parties By all measures, the Italian party system, as it had been known between 1948 and 1992, collapsed between 1992 and 1994. In a way, one can say that only the two parties that had not been involved in governing the country survived: the Italian Communist Party and the Italian Social Movement. However, the former had already been obliged to change its name in 1991 becoming the Democratic Party of the Left. The neo-Fascists too decided to change their name in January 1994. By that time, practically no significant party that had played a role in the first long phase of the Italian Republic was still in existence. In a way, the process of party de-alignment had been completed, with the exception of the Northern League, a relatively new organization born in the mid-1980s. At that point, the political space left open by the collapse of the pentapartito (five party coalition: Christian Democracy (DC), Italian Socialist Party (PSI), Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI), Italian Republican Party (PRI), and Italian Liberal Party (PLI)) coalition that had governed the country from 1980 to 1992 offered many an opportunity to a shrewd political entrepreneur. In a situation Max Weber would define as state of collective anxiety, a new political movement entered the landscape of the Republic and its vacillating party system: Forza Italia. Adroitly exploiting some mechanisms of the new electoral law, Forza Italia forcefully pushed for party realignment. Up to 1992, Italian party competition had shown two major characteristics: it was multipolar, that is, it pitted the four or five center parties against the party of the left and the party of the right, and it could not produce any rotation in the government. By 1994, Italy was the

Gianfranco Pasquino and Marco Valbruzzi, Non-partisan governments Italian-style: decision-making and accountability, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 17:5(2012): 612-629.

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only European democracy that never went through a complete governmental turnover. Since 1994, however, leaving aside some interesting political science subtleties, governmental turnover has taken place at each and every election. As to what concerns the various individual parties, only one of them went through the 1992-1994 political earthquake without being obliged to change its name, structure, and leadership: the Northern League. Only after a financial scandal was the founder and leader, Umberto Bossi, obliged to resign in the summer of 2012 after an uninterrupted, glorious, authoritarian 25year rule. Continuity was preserved because his successor, Roberto Maroni, had been Bossis closest collaborator throughout the entire period. The other longest-lived party, the Union of the Center (UDC), the by-product of a series of splits and adjustments among former Christian Democrats, has had the same leader for approximately 15 years, but it is now in a state of flux, having invested all its future in its adamant support of Montis government and agenda. Attention must now be focused on the two major parties of the left and of the right. The former Communists went first through a split that produced the only party of the European left willing to retain the adjective Communist: Communist Refoundation, now nothing more than a minor splinter group. In the attempt to enhance its appeal, the Democratic Party of the Left dropped the label party and became Left Democrats. However, the decisive transformation took place in the spring of 2007. A somewhat hasty merger between many of the former Christian Democrats, who had never joined Berlusconis coalition and instead formed a party called Margherita (Daisy), and almost all former Communists who had given birth to the Left Democrats, produced the Partito Democratico (PD). It seemed the crowning of the beloved Communist secretary Enrico Berlinguers 1973-

1976 strategy of a historical compromise joining together the DC and the PCI. To explain and to evaluate what kind of political outcome the Partito Democratico represents and what consequences will follow, two controversial elements must be stressed. On one hand, the PD claims to be the culmination of a long process of rapprochement between the two mass parties that dominated the history of the first long phase of the Italian Republic. Thus, the new party aims at opening and consolidating a new phase. On the other hand, its declared goal to go beyond the socialdemocratic experiences, which are variously said to be worn out, in crisis or outdated is yet again bound to create another allegedly positive anomaly: a modern progressive and reformist party capable of producing better policies than the no longer feasible social-democratic ones. For the time being, while waiting for those new recipes and reforms, Italy is practically the only European democratic political system where there is not a visible and viable Social-democratic, Socialist, or Labor Party. The formation of a progressive party potentially capable of winning approximately 30 percent of the votes had a sudden impact on the centre-right. Berlusconi declared that the time had come to produce a merger between his Forza Italia and Gianfranco Finis National Alliance. Without further ado, the Popolo della Libert (Freedoms People) was born through a coup de theatre, the announcement being made by Berlusconi standing on the running board of a car in Piazza San Babila in Milan. Berlusconi never ceased to exercise his full powers, so much so that the co-founder accused him of having a national caesaristic style of leadership and broke off. Following his exclusion from the government, the Popolo della Libert started a process of political decline and organizational fragmentation under the new leadership of Angelino Alfano, chosen and appointed by Berlusconi himself. Though some

Italy is practically the only European democratic political system where there is not a visible and viable Socialdemocratic, Socialist, or Labor Party.

The Future of the Western Liberal Order

Popolo della Liberts parliamentarians retain an electoral base and can rely on their own electoral committees, once more there is no longer a centerright party in Italy capable of performing a reliable task of representing many Italians in the middle class.

visibility and has ever been credited with such a potential percentage of national votes (about 20) than Grillo. Two consequences follow inexorably from this fragmented party landscape. The first one is that what is at work is not the restructuring of the party system, but its further decomposition. The second consequence is the likely replacement of a bipolar, though unsatisfactory, competition with a situation of extreme multipolarism all against all which in the near future will make it difficult to shape governmental coalitions and to make them function decently. Rules of the Game Many attempts have been made to precisely identify the cause of the collapse of the parties and the demise of the protagonists of Italian politics up to 1992-1994. There was an unexpected and unpredictable convergence of several conditions, all of which were important, but had it not been for the two electoral referendums of 1991 and 1993, the politicians might have been capable of restoring the type of political order that best suited them. The forced abandonment of proportional representation and the introduction of an electoral system in which three-quarters of the seats were allocated by a plurality formula in single-member constituencies created an entirely new electoral and political game. Berlusconi understood the implications of the new electoral system before and better than his competitors and used it to a well-deserved advantage. The electoral law has remained the object of not-so-obscure desires. A couple of referendum attempts tried to make it more majoritarian, but to no avail. Then, in 2005, Berlusconis center-right parliamentary majority reformed the law in a blatantly partisan way, ostensibly to make difficult the likely victory of the center-left or at least to contain its size. A subsequent attempt at the beginning of 2012 to

With the exception of the Partito Democratico, practically all contemporary Italian parties are characterized by a highly visible and salient personal leadership.

With the exception of the Partito Democratico, practically all contemporary Italian parties are characterized by a highly visible and salient personal leadership.6 In some cases, they have been created by that leader and would not remain in existence without exploiting the name and the professional and personal biography of that leader. The two most important instances of personal parties are represented by Antonio Di Pietros Italia dei Valori and Beppe Grillos Five Stars Movement. No wonder that a process of rapprochement between the two may be in the making. Former public prosecutor of the justifiably famous Clean Hands investigation, Di Pietro is also undergoing difficult times because of the authoritarian style of his leadership and his rigid, intransigent, and uncompromising opposition to Montis government. Perhaps one additional factor for the apparent decline of Di Pietros appeal may be the emergence, indeed, the political explosion of the Five Stars Movement, which is exploiting many of the same issues as Di Pietros. The Movements criticisms, its anti-parliamentarism and its rejection of party politics appear more credible than Di Pietros because they are articulated from outside Parliament and not encumbered by any previous negotiation and compromise with other party actors. In a way, through the relentless activities that he seems to enjoy, Grillo is interpreting antipolitics in a highly political way. He scathingly criticizes both the politics of the time and all traditional politicians. In no other European democracy has a comedian acquired so much
6

Mauro Calise, Il partito personale (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 2001).

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repeal the law through a popular referendum was not judged acceptable by the Constitutional Court. At the time of writing, a long series of reform proposals have proved futile and the likelihood that the essentially unreconstructed electoral law will be used in the April 2013 national elections seems extremely high. So far, the unending political and institutional transition7 has been largely focused on the weakness and instability of all Italian governments. However, Berlusconis experience as prime minister in four governments suggests that it may be advisable to look for a different interpretation. The first one (May-December 1994) was a disaster and was rightly much shorter than the average term for all previous Italian governments. His second governing experience was long and, though interrupted by the UDC demands for reshuffling, allowed Berlusconi to obtain the record of longestlasting government: 1,412 days. Though concluded in a dramatic way, the most recent experience in office by Berlusconi (April 2008-November 2011) was not far from his tenure record at 1,287 days. What is true is that the several (five) center-left governments, with the exception of Romano Prodis first government (May 1996-October 1998), were all short-lived. Nevertheless, on the whole, the problem with Italian governments does not seem to lie necessarily with their institutional weakness leading to instability. On the contrary, it may easily be that political stability is bought at the price of the lack of performance, and that the quality of performance is abysmally low because of the quality of the political class. Hence, all the suggestions, proposals, and efforts to give more institutional power(s) to the prime minister seem to be misplaced and potentially dangerous.

It is quite surprising that there has been a limited amount of discussion devoted to the structure, composition, functions, and powers of the Italian parliament. Practically the only surviving example of a traditional symmetric bicameral Parliament,8 the Italian parliament ought to be considered not so much the institutional body that gives strength to its government as it is supposed to be in the U.K. but the most resilient obstacle for all potentially reformist and activist governments. In order to circumvent the parliamentary obstacle, all governments, no matter their make up, have been obliged to resort to legislation by decree. The Italian parliament has proved largely unable to check and monitor the activities of the various governments. A modest, approximately 20 percent, reduction in the number of parliamentarians is in the making, but all discussions regarding the differentiation of the tasks to be performed respectively by the House of Deputies and the Senate have been muted and no proposal exists for the establishment of a unicameral parliament such as, for instance, in Sweden and Portugal. The most important and unexpected outgrowth of the Italian institutional transition has been the discovery that the president of the republic is by no means a purely ceremonial figure, and not just a referee or a guardian of the Constitution either. All three presidents who served their terms during the transition Oscar Luigi Scalfaro (1992-1999), Carlo Azeglio Ciampi (1999-2006), and Giorgio Napolitano (2006-2013) have been repeatedly called to make highly significant political decisions and choices. Constantly operating on the edge with respect to the Constitutional principles and articles, Berlusconi frequently clashed with all three presidents. To begin with, in a largely unprecedented move, Scalfaro prevented the neophite Prime Minister Berlusconi from
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The most important and unexpected outgrowth of the Italian institutional transition has been the discovery that the president of the republic is by no means a purely ceremonial figure.

Martin J. Bull and Gianfranco Pasquino, A long quest in vain: institutional reforms in Italy, West European Politics, 30:4 (2007): 619-643.

George Tsebelis and Jeannette Money, Bicameralism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

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The most serious and most intense inter-institutional clashes have occurred between Berlusconi and President Napolitano.

nominating his personal lawyer, Cesare Previti, to the office of minister of justice. Instead, he was shifted to minister of defense. Then, in December 1994, following the crisis of his first government, Berlusconi pleaded for an immediate and early dissolution of Parliament that Scalfaro could not and did not want to grant because a parliamentary majority existed capable of supporting a new quite different government. In October 1998, Scalfaro similarly rejected a request by the centerleft Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who had just lost an important vote of confidence. President Ciampis clashes with Berlusconi were kept on the ground of specific pieces of legislation, especially the highly sensitive law on the reorganization of the radio-television system in order to prevent Berlusconi from acquiring control of the state broadcasting system too. In practice, Ciampi was unable to persuade Berlusconi to have his majority to pass a serious law on the conflict of interests. Italian public opinion remains not well-informed, quite divided, most certainly not passionate about the issue. The most serious and most intense inter-institutional clashes have occurred between Berlusconi and President Napolitano. President Napolitano has repeatedly blocked all attempts by Berlusconi to introduce bills meant essentially to tame the judiciary. Above all, Napolitano warned Berlusconi that any political crisis of his parliamentary majority would not automatically lead to dissolution of Parliament and new elections. Few weeks after November 9, 2011, when he tendered his resignation out of alleged political generosity for the good of Italy, Berlusconi accused President Napolitano of having deliberately strained the overall situation in order to cast aside his center-right majority that had been legitimated by the 2008 electoral victory and to allow the left to return to power (that is not exactly what has taken place).

Leaving aside all political arguments, one can detect in President Napolitanos institutional behavior, even against his own personal inclination and will, the exercise of two specific powers that belong to presidents in semi-presidentialist republics. The constitutional rules of these republics give to their presidents both the power to appoint the prime minister and the power to dissolve Parliament. In order not to lose his prestige, the president will obviously appoint a personality in a position to obtain the support of the absolute majority of the parliamentarians. As to the dissolution of Parliament, the president will have to justify his decision with reference to the inability of Parliament to function effectively. In the case of Napolitano, however, it was the other way around. He had to justify his decision not to dissolve Parliament in spite of frequent and repeated partisan requests. His three outstanding motivations were: 1) because a functioning majority still existed; 2) because early elections were going further to disrupt the Italian economic system and open a dangerous space for international speculation; and 3) no new elections would be called if the existing electoral law, by many considered very bad, had not been profoundly reformed. The constitutional irony of Scalfaros and Napolitanos behavior, both of whom were longterm parliamentarians and outspoken supporters of a central constitutional role for Parliament, is that political and institutional circumstances had obliged them to play the role of semi-presidentialist presidents. It is a tribute to their political and institutional wisdom that they have done so while working successfully to fend off all challenges and to re-equilibrate the system. The Constitution, the institutions, the evolution and the dynamics of the French Fifth Republic have for a long time represented an object of debate among Italian politicians and scholars alike. The predominant evaluation has been

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mixed: appreciation for the political stability and the decision-making efficacy produced by those institutions and preoccupation with the personalization of politics and for possible authoritarian degenerations. In any case, those who praise and those who criticize existing French institutions and the double-ballot electoral law agree that an Italian evolution in that direction is made more unlikely because there is no Italian equivalent of Charles De Gaulle. My view is that Italy is undergoing a lingering systemic crisis not dissimilar from the one experienced by France in the 1950s, which led to that countrys regime change. What is truly lacking is either a convergence by a significant number of political, social, cultural actors on a shared project or the emergence of a cohesive political majority endowed with an institutional blueprint in a way legitimated by the voters. Comparative Remarks and Lessons The Italian political system, Italian institutions and parties, and Italian democracy are quite different from all other European democratic systems. Yet, they remain firmly rooted in the Western liberal order. For those who may not like the adjective exceptional I would suggest that Italy be defined as an outlier.9 However, even political systems that are outliers deserve an explanation of how and why they became that way. All things considered, in spite of Italys many clearly distinct, and often negative aspects, its institutions, economic system, and the large majority of its citizens most definitely belong to the Western liberal order and support it. No significant political force or intellectual pundit has argued against the Western liberal order or has tried to articulate a different, antagonistic perspective. Of course, it
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is perfectly possible that the exit from any type of order could be the consequence of a series of small, seemingly not important, steps taken almost without the full appreciation of their significance. Backsliding may define this process of return to an authoritarian past. However, in Italy no one has been arguing for a return to something resembling the Fascist regime or the inauguration of an authoritarian regime of any kind. There simply does not exist even a minimum of support for that. De-Democratization To understand the performance of political systems, one must analyze the composition and the functioning of a magic triangle: leaders, parties, and institutions. Having regularly and with a fair dose of hypocrisy discounted the role of leaders and personalities in politics, most Italian politicians, and perhaps even the majority of the citizens, would have a different ranking order from the one I have just provided. Most of them would ideologically discount the importance of specific political leadership. Most Italians would express criticism both for the personalization of politics and for strong political leaders. At the same time, there is no way of denying that in recent times, many Italians, though never an absolute majority, have approved of, voted for, and even loved the leadership of Berlusconi, and even his personality. Many others have supported Umberto Bossi. Most recently, it appears that the comedian Beppe Grillo has won the support of almost one Italian voter out of five. One would have to resist the temptation to draw the conclusion that when reason sleeps, populist leaders appear and triumph. Indeed, the vote for Berlusconi, Bossi, or Grillo has never been just a protest vote. All three of them exhibit populist features. In their political discourse and in their pretense that there should be no intermediary between them and the people, the three leaders are providing social and political representation of political preferences and socio-economic interests

All things considered, in spite of Italys many clearly distinct, and often negative aspects, its institutions, economic system, and the large majority of its citizens most definitely belong to the Western liberal order and support it.

Gianfranco Pasquino and Marco Valbruzzi, Still an Outlier: Italy in a Southern European Comparative Perspective, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 15:2 (2010): 183-199.

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that traditional parties have significantly neglected. Of course, populist leaders have made their appearance in other European countries (Austria and the Netherlands), but none of them has become head of government.

The emphasis that Italian culture has put on personalities who have characterized the contributions made by the Italians to world history [includes] saints, navigators, poets and heroes, not political leaders.

Taking a European comparative perspective, an analyst may suggest that the emergence of strong leaders is made more or less likely by electoral and institutional arrangements. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that most European countries differ with reference to the different electoral systems utilized in these countries. Within the European Union, the electoral and institutional arrangements of which are most certainly not conducive to the emergence of strong leaders, one finds, at the same time, many complaints that strong leaders do not exist any longer and a strong resistance to changing the mechanisms and the processes that might in fact encourage the appearance of those apparently desired leaders. The two top positions are currently occupied by two former prime ministers of small countries: Jos Manuel Barroso (Portugal) and, once it became clear that the larger than life personality of Tony Blair (U.K.) would not be considered acceptable, Herman Achille van Rompuy (Belgium). There are proposals for the direct popular election of the president of Europe, but the path to any such agreement is quite long. Still, one cannot forget that the three most influential Italian prime ministers of the past 18 years, Silvio Berlusconi (an entrepreneur), Romano Prodi (a state manager), and Mario Monti (a professor of economics) were definitely not political leaders and by no means the product of political organizations. Leaving aside a wealth of other implications, non-political leaders cannot (re)construct a political order. And the Western liberal order is solidly founded on politics, political competition, political leaders, and political organizations.

Three additional points must be made to explain the paucity of outstanding political leaders in Italy. The first one is the emphasis that Italian culture has put on other types of personalities who have characterized the contributions made by the Italians to world history: saints, navigators, poets, and heroes, not political leaders. The second point is that when a strong political leader emerged, Benito Mussolini, he constructed an authoritarian regime. Indeed, the motivation widely accepted by those who wrote the 1948 democratic Constitution to avoid the creation of an institutional framework for a strong leader was defined as the complex of the tyrant. The third point is that for different reasons, both the Christian Democrats and the Communists were culturally hostile to strong political leaders. DC leaders believed in collaboration not confrontation and the Communists believed in the party as a collective prince. Even though Italian Communists developed their own small cult of personality (two party secretaries enjoyed it: Palmiro Togliatti and, perhaps even more, Enrico Berlinguer), or possibly because they were taught the hard lessons of Communist history, they consistently rejected any attempt to create the political and institutional conditions that might favor the emergence of strong leadership. Their two charismatic leaders were the product of the party organization, not of the Communist ideology. On the whole, the organizational principle of the two parties for the DC, competing oligarchies; for the PCI, democratic centralism has most certainly discouraged and repressed any attempt to encourage the struggles for office and power that contribute significantly to the making of a political leader. The lack or impossibility of governmental rotation meant job security both for the Christian Democrats and the Communists as well as the shunning of any specific responsibility for the electoral outcomes. As a consequence, the

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circulation of the elites was rare and quite limited in scope. If the healthiest alternative to populist antipolitical leadership is party leadership, this explains why there was no populism in Italy between 1948 and 1992. When party leadership became weak and vacillating, frequently replaced and inconsequential, which has been the case between 1994 and 2012, then vast and real social and political spaces were available for populist and anti-political leaders. Thus, where individual parties remain satisfactorily organized and present on the ground, as in the case of most European democracies, there may appear only some streaks of populism. Those streaks may capture the attention of the pundits, but they are never widespread and strong enough to capture the highest political offices. Contemporary democracies, wrote Elmer E. Schattschneider in 1960, are party democracies. 10 The paradox is that Italians would probably express their agreement with this sentence, both in a descriptive and prescriptive way, but immediately thereafter they would start criticizing all political parties, including the one they have voted for. Neither with you (political parties) nor without you: after all, Gaius Valerius Catullus was Italian. Indeed, the unfortunate contribution of Italy to the theory of party government has been its degeneration, that is, partitocrazia (partyocracy). One can justify the exaggerated and suffocating presence of political parties in Italian society, the economy, and institutions at all levels by pointing at the weakness of all three. Today, without taking into account the weakness of Italian parties and their de-alignment, none of the other phenomena populism, anti-politics, the lack of political leadership, the increasing role and power of the president of the republic, the fragility of the Italian governments, and the poor functioning of the
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institutions can be understood. In a way, Italian parties have brought democracy to the country and its citizens and have made it work quite satisfactorily for four decades. The unwillingness and inability of Italian parties to reform themselves have accompanied the decline of all parties and the collapse of the party system. So far, no reconstruction has followed. In the Italian antipolitical and populist climate of the past 18 years, any operation of this kind was unlikely to enjoy success. Nevertheless, one must point to a positive phenomenon: the Partito Democratico being forced to resort to primary elections to choose the candidates for the office of mayor, president of the province, governor of the region, and prime minister. Not only as many as 500 primary elections have already been held, but it seems that even the center-right party, the Freedoms People, has been hit by this democratic contagion and has entertained the idea of holding primary elections for the choice of its candidate to the office of prime minister (if and when Berlusconi exits from the political scene). Conclusion In all its varieties, the Western liberal order is fundamentally a liberal-constitutional order. Institutions matter and good institutions are absolutely necessary to maintain the liberal order. The entire process of democratization of new countries revolved around the creation of effective and stable institutional arrangements. This does not mean that once a liberal democracy has come into being there will no longer be any debate on the appropriateness, functioning, and even reform of its institutions. The European Union has been and continues to be an excellent example of an on-going, incessant, and important institutional debate concerning the necessity of incisive reforms. To take another most certainly consolidated democracy, in the United Kingdom, the institutional debate has affected the electoral

Indeed, the unfortunate contribution of Italy to the theory of party government has been its degeneration, that is, partitocrazia (partyocracy).

Elmer E. Schattschneider, The Semisovereign People: A Realists View of Democracy in America, Wadsworth Publishing, 1960.

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law (2011 referendum); the devolution of political power from Westminster to local assemblies in Scotland, Wales, and Ulster; the reform of the House of Lords; and, most recently, the Scottish referendum on independence. One lesson is that the liberal-constitutional order by definition is not static. Vital societies and political systems are characterized by change, adaptations, innovations, and transformations. What is peculiar to Italy is that the debate has, indeed, been incessant, but no reform of any significance has been produced. Several observers have stressed that, in a way, the debate and the criticisms of the Italian Constitution have deprived it of its shared legitimacy somewhat. Parliamentary democracy is no longer the only ball game in town. Perhaps not. Nevertheless, there are some interesting conclusions to be drawn from the debate as well as from the attempts to reform the Constitution, especially those made by Berlusconi. The first conclusion is that, despite the governmental, political, and media power available to him, Berlusconi was unable to subvert the existing institutions, especially Parliament, the judiciary and the presidency of the republic. The traditional Italian parliamentary democracy has proved to be quite solid. All checks and balances have proved, admittedly through tensions and strains, capable of taming Berlusconis impatience with their working and disdain for their existence, which are the hallmarks of populist frame of mind. The second conclusion is that the structure of Italian democracy has not been significantly affected. By all measures political corruption, freedom of the media, effectiveness of the judiciary Italy remains a democracy, albeit of limited quality. But it has by no means undergone a process of de-democratization. Above all, elections have remained throughout free, fair, periodic, and productive of political and institutional consequences. At this point, it seems unlikely that

Italy will contribute to the liberal order in any significant manner, but it is not going to affect its existence and its dynamics in a negative way either. On the contrary, there are good reasons to believe that the liberal order will positively affect and infect a large majority of Italians. The conclusion is that open societies, the most favorable breeding ground for the Western liberal order, are exposed to challenges of all types. True to themselves, open societies offer the political space, the visibility, and the communication network to all challengers. So far all defeated, those challengers may unwillingly contribute not to dedemocratization, but to the necessary adaptations of different instances of Western political order. Challenges will reappear. Adaptations will follow. Even in Italy, one has witnessed this process at work.

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The Berlusconi Legacy: How has Italy Changed and What Remains?
James L. Newell
traits and specific actions that neither side would, perhaps, deny have made a contribution that has either been enormously negative or enormously positive, thus overlooking the possibility that, for all his color, the truth might lie somewhere in between and that his contribution might have been somewhat more modest than widely assumed. Since it is the negative, rather than the positive, views of his contribution that have tended to be given most credence beyond the ranks of his diehard supporters, I want to argue that many of the criticisms that have been made of it have been overdone. More specifically, I will consider his impact in five arenas: the political system as a whole, popular culture, the media, the party system, and public policy. I will suggest that in the first three of these areas, critics of the entrepreneur have been excessively apocalyptic in their judgments; that in the fourth a negative assessment is justified; and that in the fifth we must conclude, on the basis of the incomplete evidence currently available, that the record has been a mixed bag. Is His Political Career Now Over? Before engaging with these issues I want to make one preliminary point that Berlusconis political career is finished should not be taken as a foregone conclusion. When he resigned as prime minister just over a year ago, he did so as a leader whose authority had been gravely undermined. First, there was the damaging dispute with Gianfranco Fini, which, by increasing the level of factionalism in the People of Freedom (PDL) party, undermined Berlusconis internal authority, and then, after Fini quit or was expelled from the party, threatened to leave the entrepreneur without a parliamentary majority. Second, factionalism helped to perpetuate both indiscipline and the organizational weakness of the PDL on the ground which in turn made more likely financial irregularities such as those involving (among others) the party coordinator

Introduction hat has Berlusconi contributed to Italy? The question is one that I think is best answered by noting first of all that Berlusconi is not one of those people that leave observers of him and his career feeling indifferent. Commentators either love him or loath him with the result that, either way, there has been a tendency to perceive his contribution to Italian politics in terms that have often seemed apocalyptic. For example, at a Frontline Club conference on Italy after Berlusconi in January 2012, the academic Damian Tambini expressed the view that Berlusconis control of the Italian media had been so great as to have undermined the legitimacy of the state itself the legitimacy of what he called a relatively new, fragile democratic state11 while in a 2003 documentary about Berlusconi,12 the then editor of the left-wing daily, lUnit, Furio Colombo, and a well-known journalist, Marco Travaglio, expressed the views that Italy was a country undergoing a civil liberties emergency and was even a banana republic. On the other hand, in a recent article in the Bulletin of Italian Politics, Caludia Mariotti showed that belief in Berlusconis extraordinary powers could be so deep-rooted among Forza Italia parliamentarians that they were often willing publicly to defend his thoughts and actions without having precise information about what they entail[ed] and, sometimes, even without agreeing with them.13 Because he has aroused such passions, therefore, there has been a tendency to assume that Berlusconi must thanks no doubt to personality
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What has Berlusconi contributed to Italy?

Italy after Berlusconi- What now for media freedom? July 26, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v =p96wK1L0TTk. Berlusconi - Documentario della TV USA censurato in Italia, April 9, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=JA2um00ERIE. Claudia Mariotti, Berlusconism: Some empirical research, Bulletin of Italian Politics, 3:1 (2011): 53.

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The idea that Berlusconi might be able to make a political comeback and to occupy positions as powerful and influential as the ones he once held seems improbable.

for the Campania region, Nicola Cosentino;14 the Milanese city councilor, Mirko Pennisi;15 and the party coordinator for Sardinia, Ugo Cappellacci,16 which came to light in November 2009, in February 2010, and in May 2010, respectively. Third, the many allegations surrounding Berlusconis sexual conduct from April 2009 on, although they damaged his popular support less than they probably would have damaged politicians in similar positions in other national contexts, and though they arguably failed to provoke a genuine scandal at all,17 still contributed to the prime ministers undoing at the end of 2011. They did so because they reinforced the insistence with which commentators, at home and abroad, were able to suggest that Berlusconi could not be taken seriously and was not fit to govern a conclusion they had reached thanks to his denials in the face of the euro crisis that there was a problem, his insistence that Italys position was fundamentally sound, and his inability to get on top of his coalitions divisions and pass anti-crisis measures. Fourth, the actual resignation itself was one that had been forced upon him by a head of state whose powers have been famously likened to an accordion:18 when the parties are strong, presidents are limited in
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the discretion they have in exercising their (not precisely circumscribed) formal powers as heads of state; when the parties are weak, the room for presidential discretion is much greater and presidents are able to play their accordion to its full extent. The weakness of the executive in dealing with the financial crisis therefore considerably enhanced the presidents authority, enabling him to play an active role in its management, and thereby to reveal, even before Berlusconi left office, that actual leadership in the countrys affairs had already passed from the prime minister to him. In light of this, the idea that Berlusconi might be able to make a political comeback and to occupy positions as powerful and influential as the ones he once held seems improbable. First, it is difficult to see, after November 2011, how old claims to be able to do for Italy what he had done for himself can carry any weight anymore. Second, as a politician with an unusual capacity for what Mannheimer19 has called dramatizing mobilization he needs to place himself at the center of media attention. Yet after he had given day-to-day leadership of the PDL to Angelino Alfano (perhaps driven by the desire to take a low profile while the various controversies surrounding him played themselves out), he was unable to take a high profile in election campaigns such as the ones for local councils in May.20 Third, it is often suggested that he has built much of his political power upon his control of the media. And yet it can be argued that since then, he has begun to be defeated by technology,21 and specifically by the
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On November 9, 2009, public prosecutors requested the lifting of Cosentinos parliamentary immunity in connection with allegations about his involvement in a waste disposal company used by the Camorra for money laundering, in exchange for the groups involvement in mobilizing electoral support in his favor. Pennisi was president of the councils town-planning commission and on February 11, he was arrested accused of extortion in connection with the award of a building contract. On May 15, 2010 it came to light that Cappellacci had been placed under investigation for corruption in connection with the award of contracts for the installation of wind turbines in Sardinia. Stephen Gundle, Berlusconi, il sesso e il mancato scandalo mediatico, in Politica in Italia, ed. Marco Giuliani and Erik Jones, (Bologna: il Mulino, 2010): 79. Gianfranco Pasquino, Italian Presidents and their Accordion: Pre-1992 and Post-1994, Parliamentary Affairs, 65:4 (2012).

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Renato Mannheimer, Le elezioni del 2001 e la mobilitazione drammatizzante, Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, 31:3 (2001): 543-60. To do so would have confirmed that Alfano was little more than a figurehead; have undermined his leadership and risked accentuating the internal conflict that had arisen as groups and factions jockeyed for position in anticipation of Berlusconis final departure from the political scene. Marco Niada in Italy after Berlusconi - What now for media freedom?

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new media, which played a very significant role in the landmark defeat of the center-right in the 2011 municipal election in Milan22 and has played an equally significant role in the rise of Beppe Grillo, and which, by their very nature as anarchical and interactive media, Berlusconi is completely unable to control. Fourth, as on previous occasions, any attempted come-back would have to be supported by a new brand name conveying the idea of a fresh start; yet, precisely for the three reasons mentioned, it is difficult to see what it is that might sustain such an idea. On the other hand, I dont think that we can yet quite rule out a come-back as something totally and utterly impossible. First, as is often pointed out, Berlusconi is nothing if not a fighter and obituaries have been written for him in the past. Second, if there is such a thing as Berlusconismo, if it actually exists as a distinctive entity, then it might be said to represent a celebration of the breaking of taboos sexual, constitutional, and otherwise as well as a form of nihilism, the conviction that life is without objective meaning, that there are no necessary rules, norms or laws,23 and therefore that anything is possible. Under these circumstances, though he is 76, to bow to the limits of age and to retire from political life might, for the entrepreneur, be to strike at the heart of his world view. Third, since the local elections in May 2012, the future of Berlusconis political involvement has been the substance of a fair amount of media speculation, much of it fuelled by Berlusconi himself, as reports of decisions to stand aside have alternated with suggestions that he might once again take to the
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fray. By keeping such speculation going, he has succeeded in maintaining a high media profile for himself. Fourth, it is one thing to decide to attempt a comeback, another thing to do it with some realistic chance of success. Though the party he founded in 1994 and relaunched in 2008 has been trailing badly in opinion polls,24 his capacity to conceive of and to resource alternative vehicles for a come-back means that his own political prospects must be seen as not inevitably tied to the less-than-promising ones of the PDL.25 There are large numbers of undecided voters. At the next election he would, as in the past, once again be able to pose as an outsider to pass himself off as an opponent of the political establishment, avoiding the image of a former prime minister with an indifferent record of government to have to defend because crucially, by the Spring of 2013, he [will] have been out of office for something approaching a year and half.26 Impact on the Political System as a Whole Nothing that Berlusconi has done has changed Italys status as a fully fledged liberal democracy.
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On the other hand, I dont think that we can yet quite rule out a come-back as something totally and utterly impossible.

A voting intention poll carried out for La7 published on November 16, 2012 puts the Democratic Party of 29.8 percent, the Movimento Cinque Stelle on 17.1 percent and the PDL in third place on 16.7 percent. One idea he has been credited with is to imitate the strategy of Beppe Grillo and at the 2013 elections to field, alongside the PDL (which Berlusconi would, in effect, turn his back on) a series of non-party lists as well as a personal list headed by Berlusconi himself, organized in complete autonomy and brought together in a network called la Rosa Tricolore (Three-colored Rose). Given the relative popularity of Grillos Movement and the divisions on the center and left, such a coalition might, so the reasoning went, be capable of attracting the 40 percent of the vote sufficient for an election victory, as I write in A Landlords Notice to Quit: The May 2012 Municipal Election in Italy, forthcoming in South European Society and Politics. James L. Newell, Down but not out: Understanding the Berlusconi resignation and its significance, Italian Politics and Society: Review of the Conference Group on Italian Politics and Society, 70 (2012): 38-39.

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Stefano Braghiroli, The Italian Local Elections of 2011: Four Ingredients for a Political Defeat, Bulletin of Italian Politics, 3:1 (2011): 137-57; Marinella Belluati and Giuliano Bobba, Postmodern Mayors: The 2011 Local Elections in Milan and Turin in and beyond the Media, Bulletin of Italian Politics, 4:1 (2012): 85-113. Carlo Chiurco, ed., Filosofia di Berlusconi: Lessere e il nulla nellItalia del Cavaliere, (Verona: Ombre corte, 2011).

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Nothing that Berlusconi has done has changed Italys status as a fully fledged liberal democracy.

The state and its institutions continue to be founded on the rule of law, regardless of how well or badly the principle is applied, and the 1948 constitution remains intact. Berlusconi tried but failed to change the constitution in 2006; but even if he had succeeded, Italys democratic credentials would not, given what was actually being attempted then, have been placed in doubt. Berlusconi himself, though he talks about constitutional change, does not seem to be much interested in the hard work that would be required to devise a serious constitutional reform plan and then mobilize the degree of cross-party support that would be necessary to make it a reality. When he had an opportunity to do this in the late 1990s, he simply rejected it. He is much less interested in putting in place some kind of authoritarian regime. Yes, during his incumbency there have been a range of specific measures and actions that could be called authoritarian. Among them, one might cite the conduct of the police at the G8 summit in Genova in 2001; the 2008 law giving prefects the power to deploy troops on the streets of major cities for public security tasks; and the attitudes toward migrants, which have included the use of centers for their identification and expulsion, where they are held against their will not for anything they have done but simply for who they are. But at least some of the measures have been introduced with the full support of the left. The centers, for instance, were actually set up in 1998 by the first Prodi government. When Berlusconi has taken authoritarian measures in opposition to the left for instance, in relation to the appointment of journalists or their removal he has done so less because he has been driven by any serious project for the control or remaking of Italian society a la Mussolini, but simply because, as Giovanni Sartori has argued, all that interests him is being able to do what he, personally, wants. This is to lord it over others in his party and in government, to make and

revoke appointments at will, and generally to live a life of splendor with lots of women at his disposal.27 Fascism, authoritarianism, and like are terms not infrequently used28 in connection with Berlusconis periods in office.29 But as strategies for the mobilization of consent, at least, fascism and Berlusconismo have little if anything in common. Fascism sought social control by using the media as a vehicle for propaganda, the purpose of which was to educate and train people in order to ensure their conformity with certain abstract standards embodying the good society. Berlusconismo on the other hand seeks social control by using the media as a vehicle for the provision of entertainment, the effect of which is to dampen peoples critical faculties and so encourage them to behave as passive spectators rather than as active citizens. So whereas fascism sought social control by seeking to impose discipline, Berlusconismo seeks it by doing the opposite: by giving people what they want. Both regimes have been successful in obtaining conformity with traditional values by means of messages both confirming and denying those values at the same time. Under fascism, deep conservatism in matters of sex sits side by side with legalized brothels and great permissiveness towards male adultery as expressions of virility. Under Berlusconismo, official declarations, visits to the Pope, and support for family days, sit side by side with the entrepreneurs jokes and
27

Cited in Lorenzo Bernini, Not in my name: Il corpo osceno del tiranno e la catastrofe della virilit, in Filosofia di Berlusconi: Lessere e il nulla nellItalia del Cavaliere, ed. Carlo Chiurco (Verona: Ombre corte, 2011): 21. As Bernini writes (in my translation), If he uses the term communists pejoratively, to denigrate his political opponents thereby assimilating the entire history of the workers movement and the social democratic and communist parties to Stalinism his opponents accuse him of having realized an antidemocratic, anti-liberal, dictatorial, fascist or totalitarian regime. Bernini, Not in my name: Il corpo osceno del tiranno e la catastrofe della virilit.

28

29

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wisecracks revealing a masculine desire for women both as devoted wives and mothers and as freely available objects. But under fascism, transgression was pressed into the service of conformity through the understanding that the former was something everyone knew but never spoke about; under Berlusconismo, as media discussion of the entrepreneurs private life reveals, it is spoken of openly. And the contrast is due to another contrast, the fact that whereas fascism had the ambition of creating the new Italian, Berlusconismo has no such ambition; where Mussolini sought to sustain his power by molding popular sentiments, Berlusconi has sought to do so very much by intercepting them. How unusual is this? Perhaps not very: reliance on market research and opinion polls to sustain ones position quickly became the leitmotif of the incumbency of a politician as superficially different from Berlusconi as Tony Blair and it presumably extends much wider than this. Impact on Popular Culture Of course, by intercepting popular sentiments, Berlusconi has necessarily helped shape them, so it is not surprising given the extent of his control of the mass media that he is frequently thought of as having had a big impact on Italian popular culture. There is no doubt for example, that in the process of breaking the state television networks monopoly on national-level broadcasting, as he did in the 1980s, he revolutionized programming conventions. And there is no doubt that in doing that, he not merely offered novel forms of entertainment, but broadcast messages and outlooks that seemed powerful enough both to sustain his own appeal when he later entered politics and to feed a whole series of supporting political attitudes and beliefs. The mechanisms involved were essentially twofold. First, seeing the link between the demand for television advertising and the maximization of audiences, he forged it through programming much more colorful and

spicy than that offered by the public broadcasters dominated by the Catholic and the Marxist subcultures with their antipathy to unbridled capitalism, consumerism, and hedonism. Second, because this simple formula was so successful, it gave Berlusconi himself fabulous wealth and iconic status, and guaranteed that the powerful message it conveyed of prosperity, enjoyment, and freedom stifled by the old parties that dominated public television and much else would reach the whole country. Thanks to all this he was, as prime minister, later in a position to influence peoples political attitudes in a manner that was both significant and direct, seemingly with real consequences for conventions and patterns of behavior in civil society. For instance, his repeated claims that the charges of corruption and false accounting he faced were the result of judicial persecution arguably assisted him in winning elections despite his legal difficulties by tapping into widespread diffidence towards public officials; skepticism of their impartiality, and therefore admiration for individuals able to gain advantage by working the system. They may therefore explain why Alberto Vannucci and other authors feel confident enough to suggest that despite mani pulite and the upheavals of the early 1990s, presumably political corruption is still systemic in Italy.30 Voters who are relatively indifferent to allegations made against their leaders presumably face correspondingly low moral costs when contemplating their own potential involvement in activities of doubtful legality. However, the position we started from the possibility that negative assessments of Berlusconis impact have been overdone prompts the obvious question about the extent to which Berlusconi has
30

Berlusconi was, as prime minister, in a position to influence peoples political attitudes in a manner that was both significant and direct, seemingly with real consequences for conventions and patterns of behavior in civil society.

Alberto Vannucci, The Controversial Legacy of Mani Pulite: A Critical Analysis of Italian Corruption and Anti-Corruption Policies, Bulletin of Italian Politics, 1:2, (2009): 233.

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actually shaped popular attitudes and conventions as opposed to merely reinforcing what has been there for a very long time while also begging the question about the extent to which they matter. For instance, if corruption really is systemic in some or many areas of public life in Italy, then what?

forms of capitalist accumulation is not corruption per se, but highly variable corruption.31 In short, if Berlusconi really has helped perpetuate systemic corruption in Italy, perhaps we dont need to worry too much. Berlusconi and the Media What about Berlusconis control of the media? Three features of his media control in particular have been the source of passionate condemnation: the fact that he built his media empire thanks to improper and probably corrupt relations with Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi; the fact that the empire has created, for Berlusconi the prime minister, a conflict of interests to which he has responded with a range of ad personam laws; and the fact that the empire has given him undue power to influence the opinions and behavior of the very citizens to whom, as a politician, he is supposed to be accountable. It would be foolish and pointless to contest these criticisms which are all supported by mountains of incontrovertible evidence and I have no wish to do so. I do however wish to make some suggestions about the perspectives from which we view the criticisms. First, when we highlight Berlusconis misdeeds, can those of us who are academics, journalists, and writers from outside Italy please pause to consider whether, in so doing, we are letting our own politicians off the hook? Berlusconi has become an international figure of fun, and in heaping scorn upon him it is too easy to assume that the democratic shortcomings he represents are not features of our own societies or are so only to a lesser degree. Thereby do we run the serious risk of misunderstanding what it
31

In short, if Berlusconi really has helped perpetuate systemic corruption in Italy, perhaps we dont need to worry too much.

Corruption can have manifold negative consequences, particularly in underdeveloped areas where it can depress inward investment and perpetuate poverty in a vicious circle. But it also seems to be the case that the correlation between corruption and development is less than perfect: for example, countries like South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines have experienced high levels of economic development and growth despite having levels of corruption that seem not to be much different to those found in many of the desperately poor states of Africa. Why the difference? The answer appears to lie in the fact that in the former but not the latter cases, close albeit corrupt ties between the state and large private enterprises have rendered corruption itself an organized phenomenon, and therefore a predictable one. Paul Hutchcroft has explained why this difference would give rise to a differential impact of corruption on development by pointing out that if bribery is a calculable element of a business firms environment, its impact is no different than a tax; to the extent that a firm must devote major effort to negotiating each bribe, on the other hand, there is a degree of unpredictability in the amount of time and resources to be expended. Overall advanced forms of capitalism [rely] upon the rational, predictable functioning of the legal and administrative agencies. [Therefore] a major obstacle to the development of more sophisticated

Paul D. Hutchcroft, The Politics of Privilege: Rents and Corruption in Asia, in Political Corruption: Concepts and Contexts, 3rd edition, ed. Arnold J. Heidenheimer and Michael Johnston (2002), (New Brunswick and London: Transaction publishers, 2002): 496.

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is that is responsible for the shortcomings in the first place? For example, for all the condemnation of Craxis manipulation of Parliaments standing orders on Berlusconis behalf, of the backhanders and even of the complicity of the left in all of this, I know of no serious attempt ever having been made by a British or a U.S. writer to compare the extent to which these things take place in Italy with the extent to which they take place in their own countries. The results might be surprising. Second, by all means let us take Berlusconi to task for his conflicts of interest. But in so doing, let us not be beguiled by an unduly narrow understanding of the term: in economically unequal societies, many and perhaps most legislators have conflicts of interest to one degree or another. For instance, in an article in the Guardian on August 15, 2010, Professor Greg Philo, research director of the Glasgow Media Group, argued, in effect, that a one-off wealth tax of just 20 percent on households worth 4 million or more, representing just 10 percent of the population, would raise enough to eliminate the U.K.s public debt, which is causing such hardship for so many at the moment. Notwithstanding the evidence of popular support for the proposal,32 it has, not surprisingly, not been taken up by anyone in the Cabinet several if not most of whose members are worth more than 4 million.33 Third, as prime minister, Berlusconi was thought to diminish the quality of democracy ultimately because in combining media with political power, he brought together two things that ought to
32

have been kept separate. But on one hand, it is uncertain how much of an advantage he gained as a prime minister thanks to being a media magnate because we know little for certain about how and to what degree the media influence voters: after all, notwithstanding the media resources at his disposal, he lost two of the four general elections he fought. On the other hand, it is uncertain he gained much of an advantage as a media magnate thanks to being a prime minister. As Rupert Murdoch could have told him, to translate media power into political power you do not need to be a prime minister or indeed to be able to influence voters particularly. All you need to be able to do is to convince those who are prime ministers or potential prime ministers that you have this capacity. It is by this mechanism that media magnates influence public policy exercising influence because politicians believe they have influence and the country that offers the clearest example of it is the United Kingdom in the case of New Labour and the general election of 1997 not Italy. Berlusconi and the Party System In the party political arena, Berlusconi has been responsible for bringing the party system to a state of near bankruptcy. He did of course bring together, in the early 1990s, the forces of the center right by creating a personal party that was indispensable to the coalitions unity and thus a necessary condition for the center rights subsequent electoral success. Berlusconis party was a completely novel entity. In other democracies around the end of the Cold War, the decline of ideology and the growing salience of valence issues were, along with media developments, bringing a growing focus on, and significance for, election outcomes of individual party leaders and candidates. Consequently, parties were becoming machines for the selection and

In the party political arena, Berlusconi has been responsible for bringing the party system to a state of near bankruptcy.

John Underwood, A one-off wealth tax is radical but astonishingly popular, says John Underwood Labour Uncut, August 15, 2010, http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2010/08/16 /a-oneoff-wealth-tax-is-radical-but-astonishingly-popular-says-johnunderwood/. New Statesman, The new ruling class, October 1, 2009, http://www.newstatesman.com/uk-politics/2009/10/oxforduniversitywealth-school.

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Berlusconis party was created by him and for him: a party whose rules, organization, values, and identity were given by him; a party to enable him to further his economic interests and to satisfy his personal cravings to be at the center of attention by deploying his skills as a communicator.

support of leaders.34 Berlusconis party was very different. It was a party created by him and for him: a party whose rules, organization, values, and identity were given by him; a party to enable him to further his economic interests and to satisfy his personal cravings to be at the center of attention by deploying his skills as a communicator. Uniquely, therefore, it was not the party that brought votes to Berlusconi, but Berlusconi who brought votes to his party. This had five major consequences for the style of party competition that would characterize the whole of the period up to the entrepreneurs 2011 downfall. First, thanks to the emerging bipolarity of the party system in the aftermath of mani pulite, and the success of the Berlusconi model, his centerleft opponents were driven to attempt to imitate it with the result that elections were increasingly a contest between two prime-ministerial candidates: Berlusconi on one side and now Occhetto (ambiguously), now Prodi, now Rutelli, now Prodi, now Veltroni on the other. Second, thanks to Berlusconis high profile, his conflict of interests, and his legal difficulties, the main political cleavage in Italian politics became the entrepreneur himself. Giuliano Urbani, culture secretary in the 2001 government, put it very well when he pointed out at the beginning of 2009 simply: to be on the centre right means to support Berlusconi, to be on the center left means to oppose him.35 Third, as a result, competition between the two main coalitions was always extremely polarized,
34

with neither coalition willing to accord the other legitimacy as a potentially governing actor. For the center left, Berlusconi was inherently illegitimate as a prime ministerial candidate thanks to his conflict of interests and his legal difficulties; for Berlusconi, the center left was inherently illegitimate because it denied that his legal difficulties were the result of a persecutory intent on the part of judges with a political agenda to pursue. Fourth, given that opposition to Berlusconi was not far from being the only common denominator of the parties on the center left, it was a significant source of weakness and division for them; for while the Democratic Party (PD) sought from time to time to expand toward the center by shelving antiBerlusconi rhetoric, this deprived it still further of any clear identity leaving it vulnerable to the incursions of its allies, and in particular Italy of Values (IDV) to which many of its voters felt closer in any event.36 Fifth, the coalitions polarization and their internal divisions helped nurture and sustain levels of popular disaffection towards the parties such that, when party government was suspended with Berlusconis replacement by Monti, the resulting blow to the parties prestige seemed to leave them in danger of disintegrating. And in fact, at the municipal elections of May 2012 the last major round of elections scheduled to take place before the next general election [t]he forces of the center right were deserted en masse but without those of the center left effectively capitalizing on the discontent which was, instead, expressed by the spectacular advance of the non-party, the almost completely novel, Five-Star Movement.37
36

Luigi Ceccarini, Ilvo Diamanti, and Marc Lazar, Fine di un ciclo: la destrutturazione del sistema partitico italiano, in Politica in Italia: I fatti dellanno e le inerpretazioni, ed. Anna Bosco and Duncan McDonnell, (Bologna: il Mulino, 2012): 68. Giuliano Urbani, Interview with Aldo Cazzullo, Urbani: il progretto del nuovo PDL? La debolezza del Pd ci contagia, Corriere della Sera, January 15, 2009, 6.

Ilvo Diamanti, Il non luogo dei democratici la Repubblica, December 21, 2008. James L. Newell, A Landlords Notice to Quit: The May 2012 Municipal Election in Italy, South European Society and Politics, November 2012.

35

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Public Policy Reflecting on Berlusconis record in the arena of public policy, one is driven to make three comments. First, as a prime minister who, when elected in 2001 and 2008, had come by his position as the leader of a coalition of parties seeking an overall majority, he was much better placed than any of his predecessors to attempt to leave his mark on history by pursuing a definite reform agenda. From having been mediators in the days when they and their cabinet colleagues all owed their positions to party agreements about executive composition only once the distribution of votes was known, Italian prime ministers by the turn of the century were closer to being authoritative leaders (even though they had not acquired the capacity to hire and fire and to direct policy that their Westminster counterparts enjoy). And it was likely that the enhanced role of the Italian prime minister had been self-reinforcing the greater capacity to provide authoritative leadership raising the expectation of it; the greater expectation of it raising the capacity actually to provide it.38 It is surprising, then, that Berlusconi seems to have been so uninterested in any kind of public policy agenda that was not directly related to his private commercial interests (such as reform of the judiciary) or his immediate-term popularity (such as fiscal policy, which contributed so much to his downfall by dividing him from Giulio Tremonti in the run-up to the euro crisis). Never since the turn of the century has his name been associated with any policy project or vision like David Camerons Big Society, or with any captivating slogan like Barak Obamas Yes, we can. For a man for whom the plaudits of others are so important, this is a real enigma. Second, there seems little doubt that both the lack of interest and the desire not to alienate important
38

groups of supporters goes much if not most of the way to explaining the failure to achieve the liberal revolution by which Berlusconi promised, in 1994, to put an end to inefficiency and ineffectiveness across many areas of public life in Italy. And there is little doubt either that the financial crisis that overtook the country in 2011 was, as authors such as Bill Emmott39 have pointed out,40 directly linked to this failure.41 However, as we know that a rigorous investigation would throw up at least some success stories too pensions reform and reform

39

Bill Emmott, Good Italy, Bad Italy: Why Italy Must Conquer Its Demons to Face the Future (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012): 10. both the original 2008-10 financial crisis and now the euro crisis mean that, unlike 20 years ago, Italys efforts to solve its financial troubles will take place in distinctly difficult and unfavorable global circumstances. But that does not alter the underlying fact: that it is 20 years of neglect and complacency that have put Italy in the situation in which it now finds itself, 20 wasted years that could have been used to make the country stronger, more dynamic and less vulnerable. Growing interest rates on Italian bonds in the summer of 2011 with the prospect of bringing about that very unsustainability of the public debt that was driving rates up in the first place came from the actions of investors aware that Italys debt problem was being compounded by the economic slowdown and that underlying both were several years of very low growth that were at least in part the result of various structural problems in the economy. These included regulations restricting competition in a number of markets; inefficiencies in the delivery of public services, thus raising firms transaction costs; the specialization and small size of industrial companies, making it more difficult for Italy than for other countries to engage in the kind of industrial restructuring necessary to meet the shift that has taken place in world demand in the direction of high tech products and to meet growing competition from the newly industrialized countries, as I write in Down but not out: Understanding the Berlusconi resignation and its significance, Italian Politics and Society: Review of the Conference Group on Italian Politics and Society, 70 (2012), 32.

40

Never since the turn of the century has Berlusconis name been associated with any policy project or vision like David Camerons Big Society, or with any captivating slogan like Barak Obamas Yes, we can.

41

David Hine and Renato Finocchi, The Italian Prime Minister, West European Politics, 14:2 (1991).

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When Monti took over there was a sense of relief among both policymakers and the public because he played the wise grandfather to Berlusconis alpha male.

of the education system might be two examples42 we feel confident that a well-grounded conclusion about the performances of Berlusconis governments would probably suggest that they were (like those of most governments, we suspect) a mixed bag.

Table 1 Italy: Economic data 2008 GDP growth Unemployment rate Public debt as % of GDP
*

2009 -5.5 7.8

2010 1.8 8.4 118.7

2011

2012 II III -2.9 -0.7 9.5* 123.4*

IV

-1.2

0.4 -3.1 8.4 120.1

105.8

116.1

Estimates

Sources: Bank of Italy, 2012; Global Finance, 2012 Bank of Italy (2012), The Italian economy in brief, No. 67, November 2012, http://www.bancaditalia.it/statistiche/altre_pub/econ_it/2012/67_12/ iteconom_67_eng.pdf.

Third, Berlusconis public policy performance has to be judged in the context of the performances of others in his position and one year after the appointment of Mario Monti, the obvious comparison to make is with the performance of his successor. In one obvious sense, the performance of the two men bears no comparison. When Monti took over there was a sense of relief among both policymakers and the public because he played the wise grandfather to Berlusconis alpha male. This in itself was significant: it both reassured the markets and engineered the popular acquiescence necessary for austerity: Grandpa may ask you sacrifices, of course, but you have no doubt that he is doing that

for your well-being.43 In terms of raw data, the case for a difference is less easily made: Table 1. It goes without saying that the figures reflect processes only partly under governments control; that they might have been worse had Berlusconi stayed in office; or that reforms pursued by the Monti government will take time to have an effect on the figures. But my purpose is not to argue that Berlusconi was better or even as good as Monti, simply that with no correlation in the figures, we cannot yet reject the null hypothesis. Conclusion Berlusconi has been a very colorful and successful politician if success is measured in terms of longevity. But he is one whose negative contribution to the public life of Italy has been painted in terms that are excessively lurid. Yes, he has attitudes that are less than impeccable from the point of view of democracy and, yes, he has acted in ways that are less than democratic. But he has never posed a threat to Italian democracy because he has never had a project for its overthrow. He has
43

42

On pensions reform, EU estimates suggest that thanks to reforms of the 1990s and of 2004, Italy can expect in the coming decades to have to devote proportions of its GDP to pension payments well in line with EU averages and much below those of countries such as Austria and Greece (see Andrea Baranes, La riforma del sistema previdenziale: Cause e conseguenze dellintroduzione dei fondi pensione, http:// www.italia.attac.org/spip/IMG/pdf /Riforma_previdenziale. pdf, 11 / Table 9.5). I describe these and other reforms in chapters 8 and 9 of The Politics of Italy: Governance in a Normal Country (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Cassandras legacy, One year of Mario Monti in Italy: grandfathers government, November 25, 2012, http:// cassandralegacy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/one-year-of-mariomonti-in-italy.html.

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always, ultimately, been constrained to bow to the dictates of the Constitution. To make the case that he has left a significant legacy, negative or positive, one has to be able to argue convincingly that things would have been different without him and that the changes he has made will persist after he has gone. In the areas of popular culture and the media, it seems very difficult to make that case. Clearly his actions had a significant impact; but the impact of what he did seems to have been almost entirely dependent on the circumstances in which his action took place, leaving little room for the argument that had he not lived or had his choices been different, then the course of events in essential respects would in all likelihood have taken a different turn.44 The one area in which his action does seem to have been decisive is the party system where his pursuit of power and the consequences of that pursuit have for two decades prevented the consolidation
44

of the robust bi-polar party system that seemed to be promised by the aftermath of the collapse of the First Republic parties in the early 1990s. This in turn has considerably weakened the capacity of the Italian parties to provide the responsiveness, accountability and responsibility that are the characteristics of strong party government45 with all the negative consequences for public policy that flow therefrom. Ultimately, therefore, Berlusconi has left a significantly negative legacy for Italian politics but it is important to understand what this amounts to: it has come about not because he has taken Italian history in a direction that, though negative, is novel; on the contrary, it has come about because what he has managed to do notwithstanding the conventional wisdom on the matter is to place massive obstacles in the way of novelty.

45

Sidney Hook, The Hero in History: A Study in Limitation and Possibility, (London: Secker and Warburg, 1945): 84.

Peter Mair, Representative versus Responsible Government, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies Working Paper 09/8, September 2009, www.mpifg.de.

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3
I

Silvio Berlusconi: His Uniqueness and Universality


Paolo Mancini
widespread agreement on the fact that Berlusconi is politically so successful because he is the owner of the major private television conglomerate in Italy, that because of this he is also involved in a dramatic conflict of interest (he runs a government that has to legislate also in matters involving his property) that would never be accepted in any other Western democracy; that much of his richness comes from ambiguous relations with illegal groups; and that he has been able to construct his television empire thanks to particular links with the leader of the former Socialist Party, Bettino Craxi. This common wisdom is fundamentally correct and nevertheless it explains just a part of Berlusconis success. It doesnt touch the deeper and more dramatic transformations of politics, and society more in general, that he embodies. Indeed, the more general interpretation I like to stress is that Berlusconi may indicate the end of traditional politics that the Western world has experienced during the two previous centuries. Berlusconi embodies the end of Politics with a capital P, rooted in the main role of mass parties and strong ideological constructions; as opposed to, as Zygmunt Bauman suggests, todays politics with a lowercase p.48 Berlusconi may represent a sort of new politics opposed to the old politics of previous centuries. In this sense, Berlusconi may represent a prototype, as he embodies transformations that may have some universal character. To support my explanations, I need to jump on the shoulders of some giant, and the giant I refer to is Norberto Bobbio. In 1994, right after the first Berlusconi victory in political elections, the Italian philosopher wrote a short article titled La sinistra nellepoca karaoke (The left in the era of karaoke).
48

n countries like Germany and the U.K., people say Berlusconi would never be possible in my country. But in Central and Eastern European countries and in Latin America, people say there are many Berlusconis in my country. So what is the story? I propose different explanations for these contrasting reactions: they make the Silvio Berlusconi experience very peculiar to the Italian case (confirming in this way the exceptionality issue that many Italian politicians and observers have suggested) but, at the same time, they also stress that in the Berlusconi experience there is some universal tendency that may confirm what Paul Ginsborg, a well-known English scholar of Italian history, noted a few years ago. After describing a large number of problems emerging in democracy worldwide (personalization of power, the diffusion of the figure of the media mogul, the overlapping between politics and entertainment, and the many billionaires entering the field of politics), Ginsborg concludes: Silvio Berlusconi represents the Italian declination of these trends. His is the most ambitious attempt to date to combine media control and political power. He is the first of these figures to lead a major nation state, ranked seventh in the world in economic terms. We may decide to regard him as a prototype or as an exception, and time will tell which of these views is closer to the truth. In either case, his trajectory is significant and worthy of being studied in depth.46 The explanations I want to propose go beyond what I have already called the Berlusconi common wisdom in other papers.47 Indeed, there is
46

Berlusconi embodies the end of Politics with a capital P, rooted in the main role of mass parties and strong ideological constructions.

Paul Ginsborg, Silvio Berlusconi: Television, Power and Patrimony (London New York: Verso, 2004): 10. Paolo Mancini, Between Commodification and Life Style Politics (Oxford: University of Oxford, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2011).

47

Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge: Polity, 2000).

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Discussing the recent victory of Berlusconi, he wrote The society that has been created by television is naturally a society of the right. It is the society of Sanremo Music Festival, sport, TV commercials, Pippo Baudo, Mike Buongiorno, beautiful models, and so on.49 It is not Berlusconi who won, it is the society that his mass media organizations have created that won. This is the society that enjoys looking at stupid families sitting around a table celebrating this or that product.50 This is a very normative-oriented statement (what Bobbio seems to imply is that television per se is bad) that nevertheless touches on a very important point: the role of television. But, pay attention. Bobbio was not condemning just the Berlusconi property of the major private television conglomerate in Italy, as to the already mentioned common wisdom; Bobbio was pointing his finger at the role of television in general and how it has transformed our society. The fact is that mostly commercial television has completely reshaped the relationship between mass media (and obviously television in particular) and citizens. Mass media have made possible the advent of what Bernard Manin has defined the era of audience democracy51 where citizens are progressively abandoning their role of active citizens becoming either spectators of something that is put on the stage before them or consumers, as Bobbio was pointing out. Audience democracy may represent the form of new politics embodied by Berlusconi. This seems to be a universal tendency and not just an Italian one, even if in Italy the role of television,
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of its values, and of its role of agenda setter is even more relevant because it is commonly considered a TV-centered country. Numbers in Figure 2 well explain what a TVcentered country is. It is not by chance that most of the countries where there is a dubious reaction about the replicability of the Berlusconi experience are placed in the upper left corner of the figure: in these countries the role of television appears to be lower than in the other countries represented. Indeed, all the Mediterranean countries are placed in the bottom right corner. In these countries, the role of television is a much more important means of communication that progressively have replaced the role of mass parties and all those values that, as Bobbio noticed, made possible Berlusconis victory. Elsewhere,52 I have outlined how commodification of politics and lifestyle politics have featured the political proposal of Berlusconi and his use of the television and how they may feature in other TV-centered countries beyond Italy. Indeed, Berlusconi has perfectly embodied the values of consumption, money, success in sport and in business, good time, fashion, etc. that have filled most of the broadcasting of commercial television. Berlusconis personal lifestyle has become a model to be diffused among the citizens/spectators, and because of the large and important diffusion of television, these values have progressively replaced the most traditional political values. Commodification of politics and lifestyle politics signify the increasing role of television in spreading a new framework of imagery that progressively replaces the traditional political one. Berlusconi may be a prototype, as he perfectly embodies this dramatic change. His experience may be replicated in all countries where the role of television is important as the main setter of the
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In Italy the role of television, of its values, and of its role of agenda setter is even more relevant because it is commonly considered a TVcentered country.

Sanremo Festival, Pippo Baudo, Mike Bomgiorno are important events and figures of Italian television. Norberto Bobbio, La sinistra nellepoca karaoke (Roma: Donzelli, 1994). Bernard Manin, The Principles of Representative Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

50

51

Mancini, Between Commodification and Life Style Politics, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 2011.

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Figure 2 Newspaper Television Centrism

as political parties, labor unions, and civic associations, yet composed of temporary alliance around issues and values linked to everyday life (such as morality, identity, and worldview).54

As already said, what I described so far may be seen as universal tendencies. Nevertheless, the political experience of Berlusconi is also rooted on specific characters of Italian national identity. Here I would list two main characters: the first one has to with some sort of tendency to polarization. Historically, Italy has been a polarized country: one could go back to Montecchi and Capuleti, to Guelfi and Ghibellini, to Fascists and anti-Fascists, to Red Brigades and finally to those in favor of and against Berlusconi. Many Source: Adam Shehata and Jesper Strmbck, A Matter of Context: A Comparative aspects Giovanni Sartoris definition of Study of Media Environment and News Consumption Gaps in Europe, Political Communication, 28:1 (2011): 110-134.. the polarized pluralist system apply to different periods of Italian history public agenda. This is just one possible explanation and not just to the post-World War II period.55 The for Berlusconis success. presence of anti-system parties, the attitude towards extreme political positions and very conflictual Indeed, the second universal tendency embodied struggle seems to be a very well rooted habit of by the Berlusconi experience has to do with the Italian politics. process of individualization that has been stressed 53 by many sociologists and scholars : not just politics Berlusconi is part of this attitude towards political but society in general is becoming more and more polarization. He himself revived this attitude with individualized. The ideas of community, of mass his continuous reference to the communists who organizations, of common good are replaced by were not given the mandate to rule the country individual feelings, attitudes, identities, and needs. as they were the anti-system party and against Commodification of politics and lifestyle politics whom he was fighting. His opponents mostly give life to these transformations, which are not followed this track: for them, Berlusconi is the just Italian but somehow universal. Independently, new Mussolini; Berlusconi is unfit to rule on the Berlusconi experience, Peter Dahlgren noticed this transformation several years ago: 54 Peter Dahlgren, Media, Citizenship and Civic Postmodern politics is increasingly marked by a Culture, in Mass Media and Society, ed. James Curran lack of commitment to traditional institutions such and Michael Gurevitch (London: Arnold, 2000):
318.
55 53

Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity, Polity, 2000.

Giovanni Sartori, Parties and Party Systems: A Framework for Analysis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976).

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the country as the Economist stated. Berlusconis opponents continuously repeated reinforcing the level of polarization that was featuring the entire political spectrum. High polarization is absence of legitimation; it is the same absence that anti-system parties were condemning in the 1950s.

Berlusconi embodies a rooted cultural attitude by which the common good is less important than the private interest.

In a way, the recent experience of il Movimento 5stelle (Five Stars Movement) may be inscribed within this rooted tradition of polarization. This is a new movement born online through the initiative of a very well-known showman, Beppe Grillo, who has extreme positions especially regarding corrupt politicians and their very particular interests. Opposite Grillo, the leader of Democratic Party (the possible winner of the next Italian political elections), Pierluigi Bersani, has defined the leader of Five Stars Movement as Fascist. There is another feature of national identity that may help to explain Berlusconis political adventure. Commodification of politics and lifestyle politics have been particularly appealing to Italian citizens because of the diffused particularism that features the Italian culture. The absence of civil religion stressed by Almond and Verba (1963), Edward Banfield (1958), Robert Putnam (1993), and many others has been a salient aspect of Italian identity.56 The citizens themselves are a problem, Gianfranco Pasquino has stated. I think this is a correct statement that explains a lot of the Berlusconis success. As Beppe Severgnini has put it, in many ways Berlusconi represents la pancia degli italiani (the belly of the Italians)57: he
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embodies a rooted cultural attitude by which the common good is less important than the private interest. This is why commodification of politics and lifestyle politics has been successful with Italian voters. The model of life proposed by Berlusconi was the model of life of many of his fellows Italians. Berlusconi himself recognized this when, interviewed by a journalist, he stated: Why do my fellow citizens like me so much? Because the largest part of Italians would, fundamentally, wish to be like me.58 Personal success, money, and good times are for many Italians more important than the general interest and this may explain why so many identified with the personal story of Il cavaliere himself. To conclude, it seems that the Berlusconi presence on the political scene may be explained along more general interpretative lines focusing on important aspects of contemporary social change. Some of these aspects (the tendency towards individualization, the role of television) have some sort of universal nature: they represent changes that we can observe in large parts of the Western world. Other features are more bounded in Italian history and identity. Yet, where these conditions can be found, the risk of other Berlusconis may well exist.

Edward C. Banfield, The Moral Basis of a Backward Society (Chicago: The Free Press, 1958); Robert D. Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture. Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963). Beppe Severgnini, La pancia degli italiani (Milano: Rizzoli, 2010).
58

57

Quoted in Severgnini, La pancia degli italiani.

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