After allies revolt, Italy's Berlusconi nears political end
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose tenure has been beset by scandal, saw his government move closer to collapse Monday after four cabinet members quit.
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Mr. Diamanti argued that Berlusconi successfully “interpreted the social changes that took place in Italy in the '80s and '90s,” such as changes in business ownership, finance, and communication, but has failed to succeed amid the financial troubles that have beset Europe. “Berlusconi can no longer deliver answers [...] His pompous image of self-made-man has become unpopular."
Historian David Bidussa compares Berlusconi's rise to a “tale of Italian-style capitalism, the last chapter of a system in crisis, that has not renewed itself."
Mr. Bidussa argues that Italy's economic system, with the exception of the luxury industry, is based on the idea of selling the cheapest, lowest quality product to the broadest public. “That's exactly what Berlusconi has done. He has sold the very same image for over 15 years, both with his televisions and his politics," he says.
“Berlusconi is the best example of a political class that's unable to renew itself and come up with new ideas,” says Bidussa.
Will he persevere?
But others still believe Berlusconi is here to stay. “It's the third or the fourth time I've heard about the supposed end of the Berlusconi era and he's still here,” says Antonio Polito, editor in chief of Il Riformista, a liberal daily.
Indeed, even if his present government seems doomed, some commentators say the prime minister still has a chance to win the next elections, which may be held as early as March.
“Berlusconi still has a great capacity to remain in the public scene,” argues Mr. Polito. On the other hand, the left-wing opposition is weak and divided, while the centrist party recently founded by Mr. Fini, Future and Liberty, still has to prove its public support.
“When he entered politics 16 years ago, Berlusconi was a huge modernizing figure, very close to the productive north. He presented himself as the anti-taxation, no-big-government guy against the old establishment,” recalls Polito.
Since he came to power, however, few things actually changed. As a matter of fact, fiscal pressure has risen during Berlusconi's 2001-06 government.
“Now Berlusconi can no longer present himself as a modernizing figure," says Polito. “His energy is gone and all he has done in the past five years is simply survive politically thanks to the weakness of the opposition.”
The prime minister could continue on the same track for a few years, he says. “Berlusconism as an ideology is gone for good, but Berlusconi himself may still have a political future."