An article published in Foreign Affairsdetails former Italian president Silvio Berlusconi’s theatrical return to politicsYasminMalhotra, whose areas of expertise include international affairs, observes that this complicates Italy’s political field somewhat.
According to Foreign Affairs, few anticipated that disgraced Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi would attempt a comeback in the New Year. Berlusconi resigned as Italy’s prime minister under tremendous pressure from the public, and was replaced by Mario Monti. On December 8th, however, Berlusconi withdrew his party’s support for the incumbent government, forcing Monti’s resignation. Elections will be held in Italy this coming February, and Berlusconi announced he would again run for the position of prime minister.
This is unlikely to be a successful endeavor, comments foreign affairs expert YasminMalhotra. Opinion polls show that Berlusconi’s party, the PDL, has a little over 15% of the vote—a gain of under 2% since Berlusconi’s announcement. This is far less than half of its vote share during the 2008 election, which was 37%. This makes Berlusconi extremely unlikely to regain his position for a fourth time, notes YasminMalhotra.
These numbers are hardly surprising, considering the circumstances of Berlusconi’s resignation. Despite the likelihood that he will lose, explains the article in Foreign Affairs, Berlusconi’s personal fortunes are dependent on his maintaining a presence in the Italian parliament. He must retain some political leverage in order to maximize his chances of overcoming his legal troubles.Among other things, Berlusconi is being investigated for the alleged sexual exploitation of a minor.
Ending the Monti government allowed the general election to coincide with the regional elections in Lazio and Lombardy. This will distract from the PDL’s likely defeat in these polls. Berlusconi’s decision to run also ensured that the election would be held under the existing electoral law.
Berlusconi designed this law in 2005 to minimize his losses if he were to be defeated by Romano Prodi’s center-left coalition. This defeat was likely, and the law makes it extremely difficult for any party to form a majority in both chambers of Italy’s parliament. This would improve the weakened PDL’s standing in the new parliament, allowing Berlusconi a chance to exercise some degree of veto power in the government that will form after the elections take place. The law is called porcellum, meaning “dirty trick”.
This move of Berlusconi’s has caused Monti’s supporters to organize a political movement to protect his leadership. However, Monti’s announcement just before the New Year that he will act as the prime ministerial candidate but not as a parliamentary candidateeffectively changes his role to that of a professional politician. Low voter opinion of such politicians makes this a high-risk strategy.
Italy experienced political turmoil in 2012, and Berlusconi’s actions ensure that the drama will continue through 2013. He continues to have a solid support base among the middle class and small business owners. His influence will likely not be enough for him to win the election, but he will certainly work to ensure that Italian politics continue to operate in his favor.
YasminMalhotra is a travel enthusiast and community service advocate. She is also a gifted writer, often using her talents to illuminate the nuances of international affairs.