Berlusconi Bunga Bunga Parties
November 17, 2011 by staff
Berlusconi Bunga Bunga Parties, PRIVATE meetings with Silvio Berlusconi are always unpredictable but are guaranteed to prove interesting. When I interviewed him at Palazzo Grazioli, his private mansion in Rome, during the 2001 election campaign he banged the marble coffee table with his fist as he voiced his anger at prosecutors who were investigating his business dealings. They were leading a left-wing plot to destroy him, he said.
He won that election and returned to power after six years on the sidelines. When I met him for a second time a year later, in a richly-decorated salon at Palazzo Chigi, the prime minister’s official residence, he was in a better mood.
He kicked off our meeting by telling me a filthy joke involving an English nurse. His aides blanched visibly and afterwards made me promise not to repeat this prime ministerial barzelletta sporca. It was, in any case, unprintable.
My third interview was in his private Airbus 319 as he flew back to Rome after a day of hustings on the Adriatic coast during his 2008 election campaign. Looking strained, his voice hoarse after giving several speeches, the 71-year-old slouched in his plush seat, resting his left leg with its generously-heeled shoe on the back of the seat in front of him.
He admitted wearily that the rough-and-tumble of politics made him think of quitting “every day”, but he said with a broad smile: “It’s the same everywhere I go – people treat me like a rock star.”
Rock-star status had its compensations. On board were two attractive young women, a blonde and a brunette, apparently in their twenties. One of his assistants told me they were from the chorus of young men and women who massed behind him at rallies to sing his campaign anthem “Thank God for Silvio”.
The two beauties fawned over Berlusconi and squealed “Oh, Prime Minister!” in delight when he offered to bring them to his residence that night – to share pizza and watch one of his political opponents on TV, of course.
At the beginning of last week Berlusconi, who dominated Italian politics for 18 years, was bent on continuing this happy trajectory, mixing business, politics and personal pleasure – many would say debauchery – while neglecting the obligations of power and the needs of his demoralised country.
With a personal fortune estimated at $7.5 billion, the survival skills of a cat and a media empire fine-tuned to cover up his peccadilloes, he had a mastery of Latin political populism that rivalled even Benito Mussolini’s in his pomp (and look what happened to him).
Over the past few days, however, reality at last caught up with Berlusconi. Threatened by euro-disaster, the Italian political class reached a consensus to save their own skins by throwing him to the wolves.
Berlusconi was not always the man the markets love to hate. When he first entered politics in 1993, he was a self-made Milanese billionaire who had become a property developer at the age of 25 and built a vast media empire.
Italy’s entire post-war political establishment had recently been swept away. The Christian Democrats and Socialists had fallen to the mani pulite (clean hands) judicial investigations that revealed long suspected corruption; and the once-powerful Italian Communist Party had split during the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Berlusconi ran a slick campaign to project himself as a fresh, clean “non-politician”. Even the name of the party he set up with top executives from his business empire was novel: Forza Italia echoed the triumphs of the AC Milan football club, which he owned.
Many Italians bought into his vision: he had grown rich himself and, they reasoned, he would make them wealthier, too. Backed by celebrities who appeared on his TV shows, Berlusconi was elected premier in 1994, promising to reform pensions and the labour market and to free up competition.
His radical pension plans proved too much for his ally, the Northern League, however, and he lost power after eight months. The lesson stuck.
“Berlusconi started out on the right track; he had a Thatcher-style agenda. But when he realised pension reform was unpopular, he changed tack,” said Michele Salvati, political economics professor at Milan University. “That’s why he is the main person to blame for today’s crisis. To try to stay popular he’s failed to push through the reforms Italy needs.”
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