Italy like Argentina, Berlusconi like Evita Peròn?
Is Italy going to make the wrong choice in the upcoming elections? There's a ghost stalking Italy: Evita Peròn. She is loved and reviled for what she has done to her country, Argentina. Whatever you think of her, she was the cause of Argentina's collapse - yet Argentina had been poised to become Latin America's most developed country after World War II, looking like the Latin-American version of Canada. Then Evita came along, and with her rabid, populist message, she managed to demolish everything and push Argentina in long decades of poverty and under-development.
|Evita Peròn, second wife of Argentinian President Peròn - she died in 1952|
Most importantly: are the Italians really going to vote for their own Evita Berlusconi in spite of his dismal record?
We are two weeks from the elections and no one for now seems to recall that when he was prime minister (he was in power for some 15 years, from 1994), he has done nothing for them except look after his own interests and waste everybody's time as he fought Italian justice. He's been a terrible model for Italians, especially the young who at first fell in love with him, showing them the power of self-interest to the detriment of the society at large, throwing the whole country back to a dark Middle Ages where everyone looks after himself and damn the country!
Indeed, he has been the cause of Italy's dire and continuing economic problems, in particular the collapse in competitivity and the swelling of the national debt, yet most Italians seem to have forgiven him.
And most Italians seem to have already forgotten what Mario Monti's technical government did for them. How it restored Italy's image and credibility in the international community, an image that had been destroyed by Berlusconi's antics. And how Monti's "Salva Italia" decree extricated Italy from a threatening debt crisis that had downgraded the country to the role of a beggar obliged to pay excessive interest rates to international bond investors - at a cost of course to the average citizen forced to pay a property tax (the "IMU") on his home and accept labor law reforms. Now Berlusconi promises to abrogate the said tax and he has even had the incredible gall to promise to pay it back! The man is not afraid to lie, he has no sense of responsibility, no regard for his country's standing in the concert of nations. Small wonder he is the laughing stock of the international community.
The trouble is: people in Italy love him. They love to hear that they'll get their money back if they vote for him. Recent polls show that he can count on some 25% of the vote and that Monti is hovering around 11%. The center-left coalition led by PD Secretary Bersani remains the largest party but probably only by a few percentage points - and it is likely that to govern it will have to call in Monti. Meanwhile, Beppe Grillo's non-party is growing as Italians are disgusted by politics and their political class they call the "casta". His Cinque Stelle (Five Star Movement) could harness close to 20% of the vote.
The real danger is that Berlusconi could lose the deputy Chamber but win the Senate, and this would cause a total stall in government: no law would pass, the country would be paralyzed.
An Argentinian Evita result? It certainly looks that way...
Let me be clear: if Berlusconi wins and tries to redeem his promises to the Italian electorate, he will go counter to all the international agreements Italy has taken with the Central European Bank, the IMF and the European Union. He would set Italy on to its way out of the Euro and Europe.
Do the Italians really want an Italy-exit/Italexit? Do they realize that going back to the Lira, the whole Italian economy will grind to a halt, their savings will evaporate and their pensions drop to zero?
(photo credits: for Berlusconi: rogimmi; for Evita Peròn, www.calamuchitadigital.com.ar )