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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Silvio Berlusconi- An Enemy of Democracy

One of the basic principals of a democracy is that it is a system of government that is based on laws and not individuals. Attributes of a healthy democracy include free and fair elections, legislative representation, civilian control of the military, multiple political parties, transparency, minority rights, an unbiased media, and equality before the law. The rule of law and the equality of all citizens is one of the most important aspects of a democracy and acts as a check on the abuse of power of a President or other executive branch leader of a government. Although the Italian Constitution Court recently rejected a law known as the Lodo-Alfano law created by Silvio Berlusconi and his allies, which elevated him and three other members of the government above the law, this latest episode is a clear example of why a leading academic scholar on Italian politics, Paul Ginsborg, has branded Silvio Berlusconi as an enemy of democracy. A successful democracy depends on a culture of tolerance, negotiation, compromise, and restraint. The actions of Berlusconi demonstrate he is lacking in several of these important categories.

This latest attempt by Silvio Berlusconi and his allies to elevate himself above the law was the latest attempt by Silvio Berlusconi to avoid criminal prosecution. Since coming to power in 1994, he has continued to pursue his own interests first before the needs of the people that elected him. In addition to trying to avoid criminal prosecution, Silvio Berlusconi has also had a long history of attacking the judiciary, which has resulted in a weakened independent Italian judiciary to check the abuse of power and corruption in Italy. Still living in the days of the Cold War era and using the political rhetoric that first got him elected to power in 1994, Silvio Berlusconi further weakens the rule of law and the independent role of the judiciary in a healthy democracy by calling judges communists and red toga-wearing tools of the left.

Ironically, Beppe Grillo who is a comedian in Italy, has written over a dozen times that the Lodo-Alfano law was a copy of the previous Lodo Schifani law, which was also thrown out by the Italian Constitution Court. In addition to pointing out this fact, Beppe Grillo posted five questions on his blog to the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, as to why as President of the Republic and someone not under any kind of criminal investigation, signed the law.

Shortly after the law was signed, Beppe Grillo also gave a public speech in Rome where he was subsequently attacked by even the left leaning media and the newspaper La Repubblica as disrespecting the Institution of the Italian President. In two editorials, Massimo Giannini, deputy director of the left leaning La Repubblica degraded the actions of Grillo along with another long time (once) respected Italian intellectual from the left, Eugenio Scalfari. These attacks by even the left leaning newspaper La Repubblica further demonstrate the poor quality of democracy in Italy due to the principals of tolerance and an unbiased media being in short supply. As Grillo has long pointed out, the newspapers on Italy receive funding from the government so their neutrality and unbiased reporting is questionable.

Since the end of the Italian First Republic in Italy in 1992 and the dissolution of the five main political parties during the post World War II era, the moral and ethical bar has continued to drop in Italian politics and now the rule of law is further being weakened.

While there has always been a long history of corruption and politicians escaping criminal persecution in Italian politics, since Silvio Berlusconi came to power in 1994, he and has political allies have drastically lowered the moral bar and the political establishment in Italy will soon need a shovel to lower it any further.

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