19 May, 2008

Berlusconi III

It's a fairly good year for the right wing in politics—if you live in Europe, that is. Boris Johnsons (of all people) has been elected Mayor of London on the Tory ticket. The Conservatives only lost in Spain because the Catholic Church endorsed them, thereby mobilizing the anti-Catholic vote. I might have doubted this until the niece of a prominent cardinal posed nude for the cover of a magazine. The logic appears to be that she wanted to expose the hypocrisy of the Church. (I don't follow the logic myself.) In Russia, Putin won re-election, inasmuch as his hand-picked successor won the election and Putin himself was voted Prime Minister.

The more interesting result for me would be Berlusconi's return for a third administration in Italy. He no longer heads Forza Italia, which has ceased to exist. Berlusconi dissolved that party and re-incorporated as Il Popolo della Libertà (PdL). Several right-wing parties agreed to merge with his, most notably the former Alleanza Nazionale, formerly the Movimento Sociale Italiano, formerly the Fascist Party. Umberto Bossi's Lega Nord did not, but agreed to a coalition with PdL, as did a southern party called Movimento per Autonomia. One of the remnants of Christian Democracy, the UDC, went its own way.

The left-wing parties also re-organized, many into the Partito Democratico (PD). Not all of them, however; several Communist and left-wing parties were uninvited, or went their own way.

The results surprised many professionals. The PdL/Northern League coalition trounced PD in the elections. Thanks to the electoral law passed by Berlusconi's government 2 or 3 years ago, their coalition wins bonus seats to obtain a substantial majority. The Northern League surged to win a higher proportion of votes than many people expected, presumably based on anger that many Italians have with immigration (illegal mostly, but legal as well, because of the impression that legal immigrants receive special government benefits that Italian citizens do not receive). The independent Communist parties failed to collect enough votes to win any seats, for the first time since the end of the second World War.

Already there is controversy. A Spanish minister got things off to a start by labeling Berlusconi's government as racist and xenophobic, based solely on the evidence that the government was rounding up illegal immigrants (clandestini in Italian, "clandestine people"). Once he made that brave, courageous statement, he declined to welcome any of the immigrants into Spain, which has also been busy deporting illegal immigrants. They just don't make a show about it.

(Some stories have mentioned that several gypsy camps near Naples were attacked and set to fire after a gypsy attempted to kidnap a child. This doesn't help the minister, since the attacks were not organized by the government, but by the local Mafia. The government has posted police to protect gypsies.)

Berlusconi also appointed a former television model, Mara Carfagna, to serve as the minister for Equal Opportunities. To understand the irony, you have to understand that (a) when I speak of "television model" in Italy I am using something of a euphemism, (b) she hasn't been out of the business for long, and (c) Berlusconi had to apologize to his wife last year after saying that if he were single, he'd be chasing Carfagna.

Being pretty helps you make relationships quickly, and the political world is a segment of society full of male chauvinists. ...Any one who wants to linger just on my physique and face, well, let them have their fun. ...I am not proud of [my television career]. It was not a life choice. It was a necessary route. I regret I did not discover politics sooner. This is the message I want to give to women and girls: it is not just by becoming a television presenter, a singer or a showgirl that you can get the most out of life. (from an interview with La Stampa)
No, but it helps a lot, didn't it? Anyway, Carfagna has already gotten herself embroiled in a controversy. The details aren't worth disclosing.

The government has inherited a number of problems from the previous (center-left) government of Romano Prodi. Most famous among them is the problem of trash disposal in Naples, which is literally mounting. They still haven't found a place to put it. By now it's blocking traffic and there are nightly fires.

All photos from Corriere della Sera.

Berlusconi promised to visit Naples himself and to remain until the problem is resolved. He is a man of his word, and will reside in a suite that will cost the Italian taxpayer 4000 Euros a night. That amounts to 6000 of our somewhat devalued greenbacks. Wow. I don't make that much in a month! I really got into the wrong racket.

The sign reads, "Bassolino Jervolino only one arrest: cardiac! (Antonio Bassolino is president of the Campania region, something like a governor; Jervolino is mayor of Naples.) Many Neapolitans are enraged that the local government has refused to assign (or accept) any blame for a problem that people have been warning about for years. Naples had enjoyed a renaissance in the earlier part of the decade, with renewed tourism and a booming economy.

I'm glad my nonni died before they could see this. My grandfather used to work for the Bank of Naples, and after he married my grandmother they visited Naples. A young man took a photo of them walking through the street and Nonno paid him for it. They were a handsome couple. Nonno loved to joke about Neapolitans; he could speak their dialect easily. Being from Gaeta, however, he considered i Napolitani a different nation. He was from a generation where Italians still identified themselves more with their towns than with their regions, let alone their nation.

Naples was once said to be the most beautiful city in Europe. Vedi Napoli e muori was the saying: Go see Naples, and then you may die. This was before the unification of Italy, before Fascism, before the Republic. One might well translate the phrase differently: Go see Naples and you might well die.

This would ruin my vacation.

Such are the effects of organized crime, left unchecked by corrupt governments, on a city.

No comments: