The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Italian election goes nowhere fast

Italy intended to have a newly elected prime minister on Feb. 25, but one week later the general election is still racked with gridlock.

Much of the Italian voters’ indecision over this election might be due to the vast influence a new leader will yield over the Italian political and economic systems for the next seven years.

Business tycoon and politician Silvio Berlusconi is the longest serving post-war prime minister in Italian history. During his tenure as PM, Berlusconi has attempted to rewrite the Italian Constitution, formed a new political party and was accused of corruption. He resigned in 2011, just days before being convicted of tax fraud.

Berlusconi is currently a front-runner in the election, running for a fourth time.

From his many detractions, however, comes the public criticism he still receives regarding various scandals that led to his multiple resignations.

“He’s just a rich, pampered, spoiled politician,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Robert Duncan. “He tried to get the Italian Parliament to pass a law that would prevent him from being prosecuted.”

“I don’t know if his opponents can fix things, but I think they would be better representatives of the Italian people,” said Duncan. “I don’t think the Italian people even like Berlusconi all that much.”

Comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo has emerged as Berlusconi’s lead competitor. Grillo advocates direct democracy and condemns political corruption. Though Berlusconi is a member of The People of Freedom party, polls show his party’s support aligns more with Grillo than with the incumbent.

“Italian politics are pretty convoluted,” said Blake Howard, a Wake Forest alumnus and former resident of Venice, Italy.  “For a while, Silvio Berlusconi was PM, and then he stepped down, swearing he was done, and now he’s running again.”

“Right now, their economy is a mess,” Howard continued. “All of the austerity measures they have taken have severely reduced how much a person can make.”

Grillo’s platform promises to end existing austerity measures and return Italy to its previous state of economic independence.

Austerity is the economic approach in which policies are created with the intention of reducing budget deficits during harsh financial climates. In Italy, austerity produced significant tax increases.

This economic measure was instituted in Italy by Berlusconi’s successor, Prime Minister Mario Monti. According to recent polls, the Italian people no longer support the economic approach.

“Italian politics have always been a fractious brand of politics,” said Assistant Professor of History Phil Slaby. “Berlusconi’s brand of politics emerged out of the recessions of the 1970s and ‘80s.”

Historically speaking, the Italian economy has been relatively unpredictable, ranging from booming, as it was in the 1950s, to the recessions beginning in 2000.

Global stock markets have taken a downturn since the general election gridlock began. Both European and American report significant losses.

Rumors of a possible end are in sight. The Five Star Movement, Grillo’s prominent Italian political party, is considering forfeiting the race in return for policy concessions. Grillo’s “walkout” would end this political purgatory but would continue to empower the established politician that the movement is trying to excise.

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