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Why so many Italians vote for Berlusconi?


Silvio Berlusconi did it again. Fifteen months ago he was forced down as prime minister in favor of Mario Monti. The country economy on the brink of default. Even his allied believed he was finished as a politician. His party falling downhill in people’s preference. His allies jumping from the sinking ship. Unable to find a new leader, his party Popolo della Libertà called him back to run a campaign to survive in the Italian political scene. In the end, he not only did that, but managed during this ugly election campaign, to overcome a gap of 10-15% points with the center left coalition and remain the third largest party following Beppe Grillo’s, an Italian comedian, Movimento Cinque Stella and the Partitio Democratico, the center–left party that once again was not able to capitalize on the weakness of the centre-right.

I looked at the data this morning: 7.332.121 (or 21,6%) people voted for Silvio Berlusconi’s party in the Camera dei Deputati (i.e. House of Representatives). Nobody expected that he would win so many votes.

But why so many Italian vote for him and in a way show that they believe in electoral promises that cannot be kept, such as the reimbursement of recently reintroduced property tax?

Italian journalist Eugenio Scalfari gave a lucid answer in an article published last Sunday (24 Feb) in the newspaper La Repubblica:

‘Italians have never had a state until 150 years ago. Before then, and for many centuries, we were dominated by the Goths, Logobards, German emperors, popes and then the Normans, Spain, France, Austria. Finally, when all seemed well underway, the reign of Piedmont invaded the South of Italy that Garibaldi had liberated which led to the terrible war of brigandage. Conclusion: Italians never felt attached to the State (with capital S). They consider it a foreign body or even an enemy. So they do not want rules. The vote in exchange of favors exists on a large scale. Mafia and Camorra have lived and live on this vote trading as well as clientele, lobbies, and corporations.’

What is evident from this election is: 1) Berlusconi’s voters are unlikely to state for whom they vote in the opinion polls that accompany the election campaign; 2) people are preoccupied with every day economics and feel that all the macroeconomic problems that plague our country, the issues around Europe, the international financial market are entities which are far removed from their day to day struggle, therefore they choose to believe the Berlusconi mantra: less taxes 3) the vote for Berlusconi is a vote against citizens’s responsibilities and duties towards the State well as the rule of law of a normal democracy. In other words, there is an Italian State, but not yet an Italian nation. The State continues to remain foreign body and an enemy for a large part of the electorate  This is what these elections are telling us, this is what the vote for Berlusconi tells us.

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