The phenomenon Berlusconi and the illiberal democracies

The rift within the Freedom People party between the PM Silvio Berlusconi and his historical ally Gianfranco Fini brings new election in sight for Italian politics.

A scandal involving Mr Fini published in a newspaper owned by the Premier has increased the tension among the sides and raises suspects on Italian Intelligence.

The American author and journalist Alexander Stille comments: “ The most powerful Italian man is used to use his means of communication to hit his political rivals.”                                                                                                                                                        

The best seller Citizen Berlusconi writer helps to understand the dynamic of the Italian political anomalies and also says: “The threat of the phenomenon Berlusconi is a case not only Italian.”

The coexistence among the leaders of the Freedom People party culminated last July with the President Silvio Berlusconi de facto expelling the cofounder Gianfranco Fini with a vehement letter of attack.

In the document the PM Berlusconi accused his ex ally of sustaining ideas which conflict with the principles at the base of the Freedom People party, inviting Mr Fini to resign from his institutional office as consequence of a lack of confidence of the Government toward him.

The third highest office of state the day after his expulsion contrary announced to form a new parliamentary group composed of 34 MPs, a number sufficient to stop in Parliament any proposal of law of the Government.

The leader of the new group Future and Freedom however agreed to support the Government for proposal of laws made in the interest of people and didn’t resign as President of the lower chamber.

At the centre of the dispute is the theme of the justice, and in particular a law which aims to save the Premier from appearing to Court in a trial for corruption next December.

In the past months the ex right wing party leader had criticized the government actions and was sceptical about the possibility of voting the reform of justice as this aims to restrict freedom of press and telephone interceptions for crime investigations.

In this context the day before the letter of attack of Mr Berlusconi Il Giornale, newspaper owned by the Premier, published the news that the countess Anna Maria Colleoni some years ago left in inheritance an apartment in Monaco to the ex National Alliance right-wing party, of which Mr Fini was the executive secretary.

In 2008 the party sold the property at 14 Rue Princess Charlotte to an offshore company. The allegation of Il Giornale come from the fact that in the apartment now lives Mr Gianfranco Tulliani, brother in laws of Mr Fini, with a lease with the same off-shore company.

Despite the news is not clear and probably it’s worth to know more about it it’s surprising how the news with a prefect timing came out the day before the letter against Mr Fini.

Alexander Stille is an expert of Italian scene as he wrote the bestseller biography Citizen Berlusconi and other works on the subject of politics and Mafia in Italy.

The winner of three journalistic Awards, and professor of Journalism at Columbia University in New York, interviewed on the last events says: “It’s journalistically fair to pose the questions that Il Giornale has posed. Even if at this point it’s not clear how Mr Fini benefited from the case. Il Giornale exploited the matter to attack Mr Fini. It’s obvious that if Mr Fini would have voted the law on the justice reform we wouldn’t have heard nothing about it.”

The newspaper owned by the Premier’s brother Mr Paolo Berlusconi since 1994 when the President stepped in the politic scene has acted controversially, as Mr Stille says:” During the past years Il Giornale has raised unfounded scandals with the means to hit politic rivals. The cases of Piercamillo D’Amigo, or the MP Antonio Di Pietro accused from 1994 to 1996 of corruption are patently clear. The newspaper had to pay € 700 million to Mr Di Pietro for their allegation. Il giornale often has acted as a politic weapon and is used by the Premier against his rivals.”

The Republic Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and exponents of Lega Nord party ally of Mr Berlusconi are of the same opinion and have censured the behaviour of the newspaper.                                                                                                            

President Napolitano defined the scandal as a deeply destabilizing campaign, while MP Roberto Calderoli declared to dislike when newspaper are used to attack political rivals.

The comments of the highest Italian office and of MP Calderoli tells how this practice is bizarrely but commonly accepted in Italy also from the institutions.

The American journalist tries to explain the anomaly of Italian politic: “ The conflict of interests is everywhere in Italy. When Mr Berlusconi stepped in politic in 1994 he promised to sell all his means of communication. He didn’t sell his Televisions and neither the newspaper, saying that he wouldn’t have had any contacts with the managements of his companies. He was lying. Italian people for a lack of democratic culture accepted that the owner of 90% of television and of many press media was also the Prime Minister and now they are facing the consequences. That shouldn’t be accepted in a democratic system. It’s against any democratic principles and generates problems in any fields”.

The scenario in which Italian journalists work for example is deeply vitiated from this anomaly as Mr Stille says: “ The problem is structural. The journalists who work in Television in Italy can work for Rai or Mediaset. Mr Berlusconi controls through the Government the public television and owns the commercial one. How can journalists criticise the Premier knowing that doing so they may not more work for the main televisions? The European Union had to impose a regulation on this matter, and the left wing politic leaders when they got the chance had to approve a law to sort the conflict of interests. Their cultural backwardness underestimated this consequences.”

The case over the property in Monaco however has opened other alarming suspects.

The Senator Paolo Guzzanti, interviewed by Il Fatto Quotidiano, questions ‘from which sources come out the news about Mr Fini’ and as ex director of the Mithrokin Commission, a body of the Italian Intelligence, says: “ I well know Italian Intelligence since I was director of Mithrokin Commission. Inside the offices of the State there are men who makes secrets reports for the Prime Minister, because he needs to hit his political rivals and they know this help will be repaid.”

Mr Stille is not surprised from these declarations and adds: “Obviously Mr Guzzanti doesn’t say he was a part of that. He was working for Italian Intelligence when intercepted a telephone call between the politician Fassino and the banker Consorte, he straight went to the Prime Minister to inform him of that. I wouldn’t be surprised if in this case happened the same. These men have no ethical principles they are political gangsters”.

The scenario of Italian politics appears therefore vitiated from the anomaly of the Berlusconi phenomenon .  The Italian Premier represents in first person the strong relationship between political power, money, media and celebrity but this problem sometimes is underestimated and reduced to an Italian exclusive from the International Community.

With a clear opinion on the matter the American journalist says: “Nowadays nobody wants to be a dictator. Everybody wants to be democratic. Berlusconi is not the only one who understood that controlling the media is possible to control the politic scene. I think for example to Putin or Chavez all characters who controlling the media have realised the phenomenon of the illiberal democracy. In Usa and England the situation is different because of the presence of strong antitrust laws though the relationship among media, money and political power exists. Fox News for example doesn’t act differently from Il Giornale of Berlusconi. Recently the American Supreme Court has sentenced that no limits can be put on the financial contributions from private companies in sustaining political campaigns, comparing it to the first American amendment of the costitution which guarantees the freedom of expression. I think in future we’ll see always more private companies become protagonists of the political scene as it’s happening in Italy now.”

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One Comment on “The phenomenon Berlusconi and the illiberal democracies”

  1. รับทำเคส 27 January 2014 at 11:50 pm #

    Why users still use to read news papers when in tthis technological globe everything
    is accessible on web?

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