The Veiled Tyranny of Italy's Silvio Berlusconi
For nearly two decades Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi inspired voters with his enthusiasm, but he brought no reform to Italy. Now his likely successor and the European Central Bank are setting out with a host of reforms, but have no enthusiasm to get them passed.
As the cost of Italian debt returns to reasonable levels, some are saying Rome has solved its fiscal crisis. But the problem is more than economic: unless Italy fundamentally alters its political culture, Monti's achievements will prove short-lived.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's system of power has no precedent and no equal in the history of liberal and democratic countries. The most unsavory aspects of his regime are well known. He is continually embroiled in political corruption scandals: His longtime political partner Cesare Previti has been found guilty of bribery and sentenced to six years in prison. There are allegations of his connections to organized crime: His other partner in business and politics, Marcello Dell'Utri, has been sentenced to eight years in prison for his ties to the Sicilian Mafia. Berlusconi displays an open contempt for the judiciary and the constitutional court, as he regards both as unacceptable limitations on his power. Accordingly, his cabinets have passed laws to shield him from the judiciary. The numerous sex scandals during his rule have prompted commentators to call Italy a "bordello state" that is run by a "whoreocracy."