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Post-war Politics in Italy and the Rise of Silvio Berlusconi

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Post-war Politics in Italy and the Rise of Silvio Berlusconi

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Samenvatting

Silvio Berlusconi was Italy's longest serving Prime Minister since the Second World War. As Prime Minister, he exercised control over the three public television channels in Italy. The combination of a strong political figure that controls large parts of public media and has considerable business interests would be unthinkable in the Netherlands. Berlusconi is surrounded by controversies, varying from conflicts of interests, accusations of multiple charges, his negative statements on the Italian judiciary and his trials. This raises the question on how the post-war Italian political system has contributed to the rise of Silvio Berlusconi”
The political system in Italy after the Second World War was characterised by a number of key elements. Due to their Fascist past, the Founding Fathers of the Italian Republic strove to create an anti-authoritarian and pluralist Italian democracy. Although this idealistic view sounded good, in practice it turned out to be one of the causes of weak and ineffectual government. After the Constitution came into power on the 1st of January 1948, the parliament elections followed on the 18th of April that year. The result of that election was considered determinant for the political development in the post-war period. The Christian Democrats dominated the political system in Italy for 50 years. Despite the constant presence of the Christian Democrats in the government the political system was very unstable with more than 50 governments in 44 years (1948 – 1992).
In the late 60s Italy became an industrialized country. One of the reasons for the successful industrialization was the end of the outdated protectionism. Another aspect in the field of the so-called economic miracle were the low costs for labour. The so called ‘economic miracle’ could not have taken place without the low costs of labour. As a result of its rapid industrialization Italy was in the lead with regard to European economic integration and reached a level to be able to respond positively to the creation of the common market.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s corruption scandals were daily news in Italy. It turned out that these scandals were just a tip of the iceberg. In 1992 the entire corruption system and how it worked was revealed through the Tangentopoli scandal. During April 1992, many industrial figures and politicians, especially from the majority parties but also from the opposition, were arrested on charges of corruption. While the investigations started in Milan, they quickly spread from town to town, as more and more politicians confessed. Italy was shaken by the series of corruption scandals, Tangentopoli and the Clean Hands Campaign. The political system in Italy finally collapsed in 1992 after many years of Christian Democrat rule and let to the end of the ‘First Republic’ in 1993. The demolition of a system of parties that ruled the country for almost fifty years created a void. I was then that Silvio Berlusconi saw his chance to enter Italian politics by establishing Forza Italy in 1993.
Berlusconi stood for modernization; he used no high-political, non-understandable, phrases like his predecessors. He spoke a language all Italians understood. Furthermore, he was an accessible person, admired by many for his entrepreneurship. In fact, he was a rich business man, owner of AC Milan and the most important commercial TV Channels. With the video message he broadcasted on his own national TV channels as an announcement he would participate to the elections with his party ‘Forza Italia’, he reached the whole nation. Berlusconi won this election with a remarkable coalition and was Prime Minister for almost twenty years. In a country where a government lasted approximately one year, he managed to be the only Prime Minister who accomplished to complete a full term in government. This appearance of stability is in stark contrast to the controversies surrounding Berlusconi.
In addition to his personality and ability to speak the language of ordinary Italians, he further strengthened his strategic position by framing Forza Italy as a respectable party as part of the European EPP. Forza Italia’s assertion that it shares the same roots as the Christian democratic family has long been an argument to gain domestic and international legitimacy after its creation in 1994, especially after its alliance with right-wing parties in the domestic scene. Although he could have capitalized on his position as president of the Council of Europe in 2003, Berlusconi managed to create additional controversy surrounding his person by antagonizing the European Parliament.
Berlusconi’s leadership characterized an unusual and dangerous case of conflict of interest, on with serious repercussions for Italian democracy. Berlusconi stepped into politics when the first results of the Clean Hands Campaign became visible. With the position he reached in politics, eventually as prime minister, he achieved immunity and could therefore not be charged for corruption. The collapse of the traditional party system in Italy not only opened the way to economic interests seeking control over government decisions, but also offered unexpected opportunities for the rise of new “political” actors, namely media organizations. Given the role played by media in contemporary democracies, this new actor had easily become the most influential one.

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OrganisatieDe Haagse Hogeschool
AfdelingESC Europese Studies / European Studies
Jaar2014
TypeBachelor
TaalEngels

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