by Francesco Borgonovo
Thursday, 18
August 2022

Silvio Berlusconi is Italy’s kingmaker again

The lecherous statesman is Italian politics's bad penny
by Francesco Borgonovo
Bunga bunga is back (Photo by Ivan Romano/Getty Images)

At this point, it’s starting to feel like a Joel Schumacher film, a camp freak show from the Nineties with heavy make-up and flashing colours: Silvio Forever. Fifteen years ago, many Italians denied voting for Berlusconi, but in the end Forza Italia always ended up getting a ton of votes. Today many still deny voting for Forza Italia — and indeed very few actually vote for it (it’s polling at around 7% or less). But Silvio is still there, outsmarting the generation of politicians that — for better or for worse — he has shaped.

His party had been among the most ardent supporters of Mario Draghi, but today Berlusconi is allied with the main opposition party (Meloni’s Brothers of Italy) and Salvini’s League, which never fully digested the former head of the ECB. Forza Italia supported all the draconian health restrictions implemented over the past two and a half years, but today it is on the side of those who promise “no more restrictions”. A leader capable of similar somersaults in Italy is called a faccia di bronzo — a brass face — and indeed Silvio’s face is indistinguishable from the metal.

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But Silvio’s no joke. He should be taken very seriously. First of all, the centre-Right coalition desperately needs his votes if it wants to have a shot at gaining at majority, and Silvio won’t sell them cheap. Moreover, Silvio has a powerful weapon up his sleeve: the Italian Left. After spending more than a decade depicting him as the Embodiment of Evil, the Democratic Party and Left-wing newspapers started using Silvio against the so-called “populist Right” — embodied then by Salvini.

Suddenly, Berlusconi, who according to The Economist was “unfit to lead Italy”, became fit again. His allegedly liberal and moderate brand of Right-wing politics suddenly became preferable to the more identitarian one embodied by the League, and in the long run Salvini has paid the price for this. Giorgia Meloni has learned the lesson. In every way she tries not to appear populist, and she has largely collected the legacy of the unique centre-Right party once led by Silvio, the People of Freedom.

Giorgia’s pro-American positions are very reminiscent of those of the early Berlusconi. But maybe that’s not enough. Silvio will continue to present himself as the spokesman for the moderates, and will soften the anti-EU inclinations of a future centre-Right coalition. In addition, Berlusconi’s Mediaset continues to be a broadcasting power that the centre-Right will need to maintain consensus. So Silvio is alive and kicking, albeit weakened by time and missed opportunities. He can determine the victory of the centre-Right, but he could also become its most formidable internal enemy.

Or, if this really were a Schumacher film, Silvio would be the elderly Batman who doesn’t want to leave too much space to the centre-Right Robins. But he could also choose to be the Joker.

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polidori redux
polidori redux
9 months ago

I can’t understand why lechery is deemed to be a fault. It shows that you are still alive. It is the manner of your leching that is important

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
9 months ago

If only nu britn had this sort of hope?!