Italy Must Turn a New Page, or Learn to Live With its Mistakes

To the Chinese, Italian politics are completely incomprehensible. Not even the thinkers of the CCP, the Italianists, or the intellectuals are able to help the leadership understand the strange turn of events coming out of Rome that is so bizarre to be beyond critique. Having a complete lack of government is irresponsible and unthinkable. Guiding the nation is a responsibility towards its citizens, not a right or a privilege. This is a precept that has not changed since before the People’s Republic: the country must be assured of its leadership, the rudder must be held fast against instability, danger, and uncertainty. The latter three elements are abundant in Italy at the moment. The Chinese find one other element to be utterly inconceivable: how is Silvio Berlusconi still dominating Italian politics? It is not so much their reaction to his anti-Chinese statements, as it is their incredulity at the fact that he is able to remain relevant even after bringing the country to the edge of the economic abyss. The numbers are the only judge of performance according to Beijing, and those leading up to November 2011 were a disaster, although Beijing’s analysis of the situation is different from Western evaluations. China’s reaction belies the vision of a specific political system, a different concept of democracy, an underestimation of human rights, and the lack of an alternating balance of power, so the critique could also be the fruit of diversity. And yet they are reflected in American and European executive offices, certainly not culpable of being anti-democratic or dictatorial. The opposition to Berlusconi is equal only to the astonishment at his enduring political presence. Italians abroad can attest to this; be they tourists, on business, or scholastic exchange, they all invariably encounter the same question: what else needs to happen before he finally loses his power and visibility? That is the question coming from civilized countries, from democratic public opinion, and from independent news outlets. The question is about where to draw the line for political, institutional, and personal actions. Of note – with bitterness, apprehension, and sometimes disgust – that these questions continue to be asked because Italy has yet to provide an answer. The ballot boxes delivered a divided and fragmented country, but it also left Berlusconi with the minority, giving hope of change, a regeneration using the best attributes Italy has to offer. Instead, Italy is embroiled in a sterile and crippling negotiation that still revolves around Berlusconi and his personal interests, and how to protect him from the judiciary through other political elements that are offering immunity, protection, or a way out in exchange for the political support they were unable to gain in greater society. A negotiation like this would be unthinkable and impossible in any other civilized country. If the PD, the center-left party, is unable to elect a President of the Republic from the list of ten excellent names provided by Beppe Grillo’s  Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), if there is no will to turn the page and push the country back towards international credibility, it would be better to go back to the voting booth. And if Berlusconi were to win again, then the situation would be solved and the true identity of the country would emerge and the values to which it aspires would become clear. But if there exists a viable alternative, it would be unwise to negotiate with those who have been discredited. That would in fact be one way to ensure that he is elected again, despite being electorally defeated.