March 09, 2006


Judy_hareris_7 DIRELAND's Rome correspondent -- ex-Wall Street Journal Italy columnist Judy Harris (left) -- follows up on her pessimistic "Letter from Rome" last week about next month's general election in Italy with some good news:

ROME, March 9 -- This week offers a bit more room for optimism about Italy’s forthcoming national general elections April 9-10 than last week. Hopes are rising that Prodi will be a shoo-in because Berlusconi seems unable to beat back the center-left's consistent five-point advantage in the polls, week after week, of roughly 52% for the center-left led by Romano Prodi to 47% to Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right.

Enzo_biagiThe veteran RAI TV commentator Enzo Biagi (left), for one -- target of a frontal attack last month by Berlusconi -- is optimistic. Calling Berlusconi an “amateur” who threw himself into politics to save himself from impending disaster,  “I think the amateur hour is finished.”

No less important, other signs of nervousness suggest that Berlusconi is running scared. Here they are:

First, the ruckus over the pope’s agreeing to receive Berlusconi in an election-eve audience was so loud that someone (read: the Church) thought again.  Backpedaling to the high road, Berlusconi announced Tuesday he would not attend the planned papal audience. Loyalist Pier_ferdinando_casini_2 Catholic politician and Berlusconi ally Pier Ferdinando Casini (right) followed suit; more probably, it was he who had taken the lead.

Prodi_2 Then, on Wednesday Berlusconi caved in to colorless center-left opposition coalition leader Romano Prodi (left) and agreed to hold a TV debate, and the daily Corriere della Sera formally tilted forLuca_cordero_di_montezemolo  Prodi. Luca Cordero di Montezemolo (right), the head of Fiat, did the same. The Church, an often subservient national newspaper, the country’s leading industrial force: all have backed off. In the Italian hunting phrase, Berlusconi (below left) seems to have just too much lead in Berlusconi_worried_2 his wings.

Finally, the polls are showing that the number of undecided has dropped from some 25% to under 16%. But this raises some questions. Are these potential voters really undecided? If so, undecided about what? Why, at this late date?

A degree of uncertainty remains—and it remains an apathetic Umberto_eco_2 electorate on the left. Hence Umberto Eco (right) has pleaded for every left opponent of Berlusconi to go and vote: “On April 9, let’s save democracy.” In Eco’s analysis, “Berlusconi says that he doesn’t give a hoot about what the papers write because his electorate looks only at TV. But to the handful of people who read what I write, I say: look, the moment is tragic, don’t sit back in silence, don’t stay outside even if you aren’t very happy with the center-left. This isn’t about a bad smell under your nose—it’s about being realistic....Maybe it’s not only Berlusconi’s electorate that doesn’t read the press. --
from JUDY HARRIS in Rome

And, responding to last week's report from Judy, our friend George De Stefano -- who's written a lot on Italian culture, and whose newDe_stefano_book_jacket  book on America's fascination with the Mafia, "An Offer We Can't Refuse," (right) was published last month by Farrar, Straus, Giroux -- chimed in with this tart comment:

Ciao Doug.
I read Judy Harris's latest at your blog, and although I don't necessarily disagree with her assessment, I do think she needs to get out more. Meaning, out of Rome, and talk to people other than fascist cabbies and Roman liberals. There's much more to the story of the upcoming elections, and to Beppe_grillo Italian politics, than she lets on. For one thing, you might tout Beppe Grillo's blog (both Italian and English versions) much more. Beppe (left) has a much broader perspective on what's happening, as he travels all over Italy making personal appearances, participating in demos, and talking with people.
[Beppe Grillo is a well-known leftish TV comic and satirist --D.I.] Did you know that when he spoke at Napoli's Notte Bianche event not long ago he drew such huge crowds that the cops had to close off Piazza Dante? The same thing happens wherever he appears. He's something of a cynosure for much of the political discontent, rage, and frustration that is widespread in Italy. Berlusconi is loathed much more than one would gather from reading Judy's stuff, and the polls are showing it.Rita_borsellino  One of the most promising developments is the candidacy of Rita Borsellino (right) for president of the Sicilian region. She's running as Salvatore_cuffaro the centrosinistra (Unione) candidate against Berlusconi's boy, Salvatore Cuffaro (left), who is actually under indictment on mafia collusion charges. And she's leading in the polls. Her candidacy speaks particularly to the educated and progressive middle classes who are fed up with the old order in Sicily, and with Berlusconi. You can read her letter (in English) to Grillo at Grillo's blog. And I'm working here with a group of left Italian Americans to raise money for her campaign. I don't want to paint a sunnier picture of Italian politics than would be realistic. But Judy Harris really misses much of the picture, I think, in her focus on elites and on the media. Does she ever talk to any activists? If so, it doesn't show up in her postings.

....To which Judy responded:

Tell George DeStefano that nobody but nobody loathes repeat loathes Berlusconi more than I do! And that I do –believe it or not – get away from fascist cabbies and Rome: indeed just back from a swing north where we were interested in the what’s happening to the Lega.

Agreed, Beppe Grillo's blog is great fun and a ray of light. Everyone adores it. Rita Borsellino's candidacy in Sicily is another—though I have watched the Sicilian Mafia expand relentlessly for four decades. Good luck to her even if Rutelli kissed and made up with her, yuk.

With a tad less than a month to go until the voting, DIRELAND will try to keep tabs on the ups and downs -- with our fingers and legs crossed that the voters will send Berlusconi packing....

Posted by Direland at 09:05 AM | Permalink


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Posted by: Cell | Jul 31, 2006 5:52:42 AM

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Posted by: Cell | Jul 31, 2006 5:51:33 AM

La politica Ialiana ormai da anni puo' definirsi BIZANTINISMO: a causa delle tattiche,dei legami lobbistici di interessi, dei ragionamenti contorti,lunghi che riescono a riempire pagine,ma senza significati concreti.PARLARE SEMPRE,DIRE MAI! Purtroppo in tale Bizantinismo mancano i veri BIZANTINI: politici di valore ed onestà non ve ne sono; la SINISTRA riesce ad esprimere vecchi Slogans ormai consumati,la DESTRA dimostra tutta l'Impreparazione ed improvvisazione del DILETTANTE- Giuliano Fagioli-Critico-

Posted by: Giuliano Fagioli | Apr 10, 2006 8:32:43 AM

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