The new government crisis created by People of Freedom leader Silvio Berlusconi comes a few days before a Senate vote scheduled to decide whether or not he should be stripped of his parliamentary immunity due to his conviction for tax evasion. His official reason for calling for the resignations is his refusal to support several budget measures, including an increase in VAT.
The Corriere della Sera speaks for the “moderates” who form the bulk of its readers – and of Berlusconi’s electorate – who, today are “outraged”. For the paper’s editor-in-chief, Ferruccio de Bortoli –
Corriere della Sera, Milan
“The irresponsible choice made by Berlusconi and his faithful supporters […] has the bitter taste of an inconsiderate and desperate action. It serves no useful purpose. It does not change by one iota *Il Cavaliere’s* legal destiny, but it forces a country held hostage to the brink of a new precipice. The blow to Letta’s government […] causes untold damage in particular to Berlusconi’s electorate which consists of families and businesses. […]
Il Cavaliere’s explanation – an instinctive reaction to excessive taxes – is a nonsensical pretext. The cost of the Arcore [Berlusconi’s home] proclamation, if it results in early elections, is quickly tallied: the modest signs of rebound will evaporate, major investors will become even more wary of a country they do not understand and in which they do not want to risk their capital. The cost of the debt is bound to rise. […] Businesses will continue to die and many others will not benefit from the rustling of growth. […] Jobs will continue to decline. The 2014 budget […] will be dictated by Brussels. The benefits gained last May, when excessive debt procedures were dropped, will disappear. The government that wins the next elections will probably be forced to sign an unconditional surrender to the troika – the EU, ECB and IMF.”
Stampa editor-in-chief, Mario Calabresi, also agrees saying “basta” to a crisis seen as “useless and disastrous” –
“Silvio Berlusconi’s unexpected decision to have his ministers resign in order to make the government fall is a tough blow for our country. This humiliation propels us towards chaos, towards lack of credibility, which, in turn, puts us back under surveillance and confirms all the worse biases regarding Italians. This week, instead of discussing the fact that the country’s primary telecommunication firm will shift to foreign hands or that Alitalia will soon no longer be our national airline company, we are drawn into one man’s legal spiral of woe.
[…] In two weeks, the 2014 budget must be presented, a key moment for those, like the rest of us, who’s finances are fragile; on November 15, the EU evaluations will be made public; our debt is rising dangerously – the IMF noted the risk to Italy two days ago. And we, who desperately need a shield of protection and credibility, are left naked and disarmed.”
In the press close to Berlusconi, however, the tone is completely different. The director of Il Giornale, Alessandro Sallusti, accuses Prime Minister Enrico Letta and his taxes of “bringing down the government,” while defending Il Cavaliere’s decision to protect his interests ahead of future elections
“Once again, both the politicians and the commentators could not be more wrong. To varying degrees, they thought, or feared or even wanted Berlusconi to bring down the government on the issue of his personal affairs. That has not happened. He was not motivated by sense of responsibility […] but above all, because he did not want to endanger the only heritage he really values, apart from his children: his electorate.
What would have happened to all of these voters if the People of Freedom (PDL) had endorsed a decision to empty Italian pockets? […] We do not know what will happen once Letta has fallen. But today we have had confirmation: those who want to impose more taxes are incompatible with Forza Italia, Berlusconi’s former party, which he has now revived.”
It is Forza Italia, whose relaunch was recently announced by Il Cavaliere. This party – instead of the PDL, which was deemed too undisciplined – willbe presented at the next elections. As sociologist Ilvo Diamanti, notes in La Repubblica —
“Berlusconi still has the benefit of political consensus, and even more economic and media power. And he will make use of these advantages, if he cannot impose his choices, to block the choices of others, and to control dissent in his party, with one ultimatum after another. That is why Berlusconi will fight to the bitter end.
Because he is fighting for his political survival and for Forza Italia. […] That is why he wants a vote as soon as possible. Because ever since its foundation in 1994, up until the most recent elections in 2013, Berlusconi’s “personal party” has always been at its best in general elections. And that is why he has transformed politics into an ongoing election campaign. And today, to guard against external threats and internal tensions in his party, he needs fresh elections — and the sooner the better.”