Searching for a Berlusconi alternative

Berlusconi is bad for the image of Italians overseas. The worse bit is that he re-enforce the stereotypes of Italians. Gregarious, zest for life, but bad organisers and at governing. We all heard the ‘Heaven and Hell’ jokes. Even now some mention Cicciolina as an example of how Italians are a bit of a joke when it comes to politics. Even though Ilona Staller hasn’t been in parliament for 18 years.

Berlusconi’s gaffes and dubious relationships with some women have been gleefully used by the overseas media, the English speaking one especially, to re enforce the Italian stereotype.

But there are good reasons about the disquiet regarding the Italian Prime Minister. The fact that he owns the most watched private TV networks in Italy and as PM he also leads a government that owns the public ones is a huge conflict of interest.

So why do Italians have voted him in? As I haven’t lived in Italy for some time I cannot be authoritative about this, but from listening and reading Italian media it seems to me that whatever Berlusconi does wrong, he has been able to offer stable governments. And as people know (and yet another proof of the unreliability of Italian politics) after the war governments were created and fell because they were unstable coalitions of many parties.

The Prime Minister before Berlusconi, Romano Prodi, headed a centre left government. And Prodi was what Berlusconi isn’t. Graduated in Law, but with an interest in economics he is also fluent in English having completed postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics, and has also been a visiting professor at Harvard University and a researcher at the Stanford Research Institute.

But his government was like the bad old days. A grouping of left parties that couldn’t really agree with each other and doomed to fail, which it did.

My hunch is that if Italians were offered a viable alternative, and alternative which can [u]govern[/u] they would be quite happy to vote for it. But at this stage is there such an alternative?

One great blog that I read to keep me current with Italian politics is Chris Harnetty and being an English language blog about Italian politics and its media I highly recommended to anyone interested in this area. In its latest post, Chris writes about the forthcoming election of a leader for the main opposition party, the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico)

The contest for the leadership of the PD between Pier Luigi Bersani, Dario Franceschini (the current leader), and Ignazio Marino.

If I had to choose from afar Australia I would go for Marino.

Marino may not have the political experience of Bersani and Franceschini but has had had an illustrious career as a top surgeon.

He trained at the Transplant Center of the University of Cambridge and the University of Pittsburgh’s Starzl Transplantation Institute. Then he was appointed Associate Director of the National Liver Transplant Center of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center of Pittsburgh. In 2002 he became Professor of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He has personally performed over 650 transplants. He has authored 635 scientific publications and 3 scientific books. He was a member of the surgical team which on 28 June 1992 and 10 January 1993 performed the only two baboon-to-human liver xenotransplants in medical history.

The other thing that I liked when reading about him is that he had advocated for issues such as the right to die, and apparently he is a strong advocate of a lay country, gaining vocal support from left-wing parties and the Italian Radicals. The Radicals are a bit flippy, however they are the probably the party I would vote for in Italy as it is one of the few parties only party that doesn’t feel it has to appease the pernicious influence of the Vatican. Italy really has gone beyond that. This was an issue with Prodi and I would venture with Franceschini that are from a Catholic background.

The problem is that while Marino may be able to perform heart bypasses in the operating theatre, he had a charisma bypass himself from what I have been able to see on the various youtube videos I have seen, as for example this one where he outline his program. Great ideas, but I don’t know whether they would be enough to carry him over the line, as Chris already stated in his blog he is quite behind.

Whoever wins we need a strong alternative to Berlusconi. Not only because every democracy need a strong opposition, but also because Italy needs to get rid of the type of Prime Minister Berlusconi has become.

If anything it would be great for us Italians overseas.

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