International Newsdesk – Italian overseas voters oust Berlusconi

In an exceptionally close April 9-10th election result, Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s Prime Minister (twice elected since 1994), lost his position (CBC News 2006). The loss can be attributed to a change in electoral process that his government legislated. In December 2005, Berlusconi’s centre-right political party named Forza Italia (translated as “Go Italy” and used as a soccer chant by fans of AC Milan, the national soccer team owned by Berlusconi) made an effort to equalize Italy’s voting system by allowing overseas Italians to cast ballots. Now it seems those same, newly endowed voters have made enough of a difference to oust Forza Italia.

The Italian government has been in constant flux since the Second World War. In fact, every election since then has resulted in a coalition government. None of these governments has been able to serve its full five-year term, something that each consecutive governing body has tried, and failed, to put right.

Berlusconi is Italy’s richest man, with property ranging from advertising and media to the national soccer team. His many critics accuse him of using his media holdings to paint a better picture of himself. It is said that the Italian voter cannot get away from favourable images of Forza Italia’s leader. He has been accused of fraud and embezzlement, among other crimes. These accusations have resulted in charges, acquittals, and convictions that were overturned on appeal (BBC News 2006). This week, Berlusconi is still not conceding defeat to his rival, Romano Prodi, who is the same man who took the Prime Minister’s position away from Berlusconi in 1996.

Prodi is leading a coalition of centre-left political parties, brought together solely to challenge Berlusconi’s conservative government. He served as Italy’s Prime Minister immediately prior to Forza Italia’s recent governance. He then served as President of the European Commission. He was responsible for the adoption of the Euro as currency throughout most of the European Union (EU). He has taken steps to make EU legislation more transparent to the public by publishing his own European Commission correspondence ( BBC News 2003).

This week, Prodi has accepted the challenge of cleaning up Italy’s immense bureaucracy, reducing its deficit (which is higher than allowed by EU rules), cutting labour costs, and pulling troops out of Iraq. His coalition won power by a mere sliver of 25,000 votes, with a massive 83% voter turnout. The win is accounted to the overseas ballots; Berlusconi has demanded a recount.

References

BBC News staff (2003, May 20). Profile: Romano Prodi. BBC News. Retrieved from
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3039757.stm

BBC News staff (2006, April 11). Profile: Silvio Berlusconi. BBC News. Retrieved from
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3034600.stm

CBC News staff (2006, April 11). The Italian election; Hopelessly split? CBC News. Retrieved from
http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/italy

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