Election Diary Vol. 3

Thu, 03/23/2006 - 04:03

Stefano Rossini provides another report for the Italian electoral campaign. A campaign that is becoming more unplesant by the minute, with constant fighting between candidates and little discussion on substance, as the contenders are attempting to gain some extra ground.

Silvio Berlusconi has made this election campaign unique by setting an unprecedented tone. Electors are no longer divided in parties and coalitions, but in friends and enemies. If someone votes and thinks as Berlusconi does, then they are a friend, otherwise they are an enemy, or as suggested at the recent Confidustria meeting to Diego della Valle, they might have something to hide.

During an interview in RAI 3 which he abandoned midway because he did not like the line of questioning, Berlusconi has even gone as far as saying that if the left win the elections it would because of rigging.

Subsequently, at the meeting of Italy’s business community in Vicenza he accused every leading newspaper (except the one supporting him) of working for the “communists” and being pessimistic. In this list he even included Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s Financial Times, while the editor of the newspaper was sitting next to him attempting in vain to control what should have been a question and answer session. In the same meeting Berlusconi attacked all the leaders of the business community and completely ignored the fact that he was meant to answers questions set to him in a tight time-schedule. The meetings organisers even raised suspicions that Berlusconi may have brought his own supporters to the meeting since the numbers swelled just before his entry with people who signed up for the conference on the spot.

It would seem that the effort of Berlusconi to respect the time limits for answering questions set during his face-off with Prodi on national television cost him too much. Most polls revealed that Prodi was considered the winner of that debate and Berlsuconi require a big event to stamp his own mark on the elections.

Fortunately and wisely, the accused newspapers editors chose not to play Berlusconi’s game. Newspapers replies ranged from mild to indifferent. La Stampa, Il Sole 24 ore, Il Messaggero, Il Corriere della Sera, talked about the facts without venoms.

Whether Berlusconi’s confrontational tactics are the right ones remains to be seen. He seems to have alienated business leaders through Confidustria, the press and banks. While some say this approach is actually working because he is motivating his own electoral base, many would love to see him stop. These critical supported believe that the less he speaks, the bigger are his chances of victory.

In the centre-left coalition voters do not seem as impressed with their own leaders. In fact, based on some of the comments coming through from dedicated centre-left supporters, you could almost say that the centre-left coalition is gaining ground despite of Prodi, Fassino and Rutelli. As the very influential activist Beppe Grillo said, if Prodi and his friends want to win the next election they have to do just one thing: disappear! Maybe, if they don’t say anything, avoid gaffes and avoid playing Berlusconi’s game, they might just have a chance of winning the next election.

This is the current paradox of Italian politics: if Berlusconi speaks, the left takes the advantage, when Prodi shows his really priest-like face and rhetoric then Berlusconi gains. It’s the law of forgetfulness at play: people vote for the least worst, the one you least remember!