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World Government crisis in Italy: Why Berlusconi is important again

16:20  27 january  2021
16:20  27 january  2021 Source:   sueddeutsche.de

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  PM urges pro-EU lawmakers to back Italy's fragile govt Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte appealed to liberal, pro-European lawmakers Monday to support his teetering government or risk handing power to the nationalist right. He urged lawmakers from "the highest European tradition -- liberal, popular and socialist" to join him, adding: "Now we have to turn the page."The coalition has been on the brink since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party last week, depriving Conte of his majority in the Senate, parliament's upper house.

Why Berlusconi is important again Geht er mit seiner Partei Forza Italia in eine Regierung der nationalen Einheit? Der umstrittene frühere italienische Premier Silvio Berlusconi. © Luca Bruno / AP Is he going with his Forza Italia party into a government of national unity? The controversial former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Italy's ex-prime minister has grown old and his party has shrunk to a shadow of itself. But suddenly Berlusconi is back in the middle of the big game and is hotly courted.

He's back, ensnared and harassed: Silvio Berlusconi. He seldom comes to Rome. He has canceled the lease for the Palazzo Grazioli, which used to be the second seat of government in the city. Berlusconi now mostly lives in the south of France, in a villa belonging to his daughter from his first marriage. You can hear that he was tired and marked by his Covid 19 illness in the autumn, that he recovered only with great difficulty. He's 84 years old too.

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His party Forza Italia still doesn't have a new boss because he can't imagine anyone at the head of his creature but himself. In the past few years it has shrunk to a shadow of itself, a limp memory. About six percent of Italians still say they would choose Forza Italia.

And yet: suddenly Berlusconi is back, right in the middle of the big game. The Italians are wondering whether the former prime minister can be won over to a government of "national rescue", as it is now called, with or without Giuseppe Conte - as a noble gesture for the well-being of the country in times of crisis and pandemic. That cannot be ruled out, although Berlusconi has often repeated recently that he remains loyal to his right-wing allies, that this is his political home. But is it really?

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Berlusconi has little in common with right-wing parties like Salvini's Lega.

The liberal and traditionally pro-European Berlusconi's party, part of the European People's Party, has little in common with the nationalist program of Matteo Salvini's right-wing Lega and the post-fascist Fratelli d'Italia of Giorgia Meloni. The two partners have long overtaken him, Forza Italia is only number three in the right camp, far behind.

With one maneuver, he might be able to free himself from the downward spiral. Conte's public appeal to all "Europe-friendly, liberal, bourgeois and socialist" forces in parliament was also directed at him and his family. Half a dozen "Forzisti", a delegation of the Cavaliere, would be enough.

On the other hand, Berlusconi has said so many bad things about the "pauperists", "envious" and "dilettantes" of the Cinque Stelle in the past that common governance would require a total twist. But nothing at all is impossible.

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Berlusconi und Salvini bei einem gemeinsamen Auftritt 2019. Ihre Parteien haben im Grunde nur wenig gemein. © REMO CASILLI / REUTERS Berlusconi and Salvini at a joint appearance in 2019. Basically, their parties have little in common.

Salvini knows this and tries with all his might to hold back Berlusconi. In a television interview he said he saw Berlusconi quite well as the future president of Italy. From Berlusconi's entourage we know that the Quirinal Palace is his deepest longing, revenge and triumph rolled into one - but of course that is precisely why it is very unlikely. A crush.

As president he would be a grotesque occupation

Despite all the gentleness of old age that brings him new sympathies, Berlusconi has polarized the country so strongly for a career, he shook the foundations of the rule of law and even snubbed the moral understanding of enlightened Italians with his bunga bunga, that as the father of the country who hovers above everything, he would be a grotesque occupation.

The election of the new president will take place in one year, January 2022. Since a broad consensus in parliament is required, he would only have prospects if new elections were held beforehand and the rights came to power. And this scenario, the early elections that Salvini and Meloni would like them to have, is currently the most implausible of all. In addition, Berlusconi would be 92 years old at the end of a possible mandate.

So he's in a dilemma, "old Silvio", as a newspaper calls him. Torn to and fro, trying to round off his meager political estate. There is a fallback option for this, which is also widely rumored, it would be the fulfillment of a smaller dream: Senator for life. Maybe something could be done about that, especially if he saves the country from going to the ballot box.

Italy's Conte, 'chameleon' with survival instinct .
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte took office with no political experience but has proved remarkably adept at staying in power -- at least so far. "Conte has certainly proved to be a chameleon," Lorenzo Castellani, political professor at Rome's Luiss university, told AFP. "He has been extremely flexible. So far, being without his own party has been an advantage for him, but it could become a weakness if the political parties become more aggressive.

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This is interesting!