Adam Lovejoy writes from Rome: Say what you will about Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi but he is a man who enjoys the trappings of power and is not afraid to show it. He is probably one of the few leaders in Europe who manages to combine his busy official schedule with a colourful private life. One of the young women that he has been linked with, 18-year old Noemi Letizia who calls him ‘Papi’, has landed him in trouble after his wife, Veronica Lario, announced that she was tired of his womanising and was getting a divorce. Although it is quite understandable that young women must be attracted to Mr Berlusconi, what with his rugged good looks, shiny new hair that has settled in perfectly and, most importantly, with all that power that he oozes and the billions that he posses. What is there not like for an aspiring actress or model?
But all of this is irrelevant compared to Mr Berlusconi’s new determination to embark on a ‘revolution’ to give himself unlimited powers and rule more like a president than a prime minister. It appears that he has grown tired of waging wars against parliament and has come to a conclusion that is has become ‘useless’. Yes, that is exactly how he called it a couple of days ago in a speech in front of Italian businessmen, complaining that his ‘efficient’ government finds it hard to deal with legislators who are stalling his reforms.
Mr Berlusconi wants to change the country’s constitution and give him more powers at the expense of parliament. He wants to be able to appoint and fire his ministers whenever he feels like it and be able to dissolve parliament and call new elections. At the moment all these functions are the prerogative of parliament. So the Italian prime minister feels that is time for a revolution and even says that he has always considered himself to be a ‘revolutionary’. Revolution is easier than conducting reform, he said recently, indicating his determination to step on the war path.
Mr Berlusconi is looking at the possibility of initiating the so-called ‘people’s bill’ that would allow half a million Italians to sign under a motion proposing to introduce changes to the country’s constitution and give the prime minister more powers. He also wants to cut down the number of deputies in parliament substantially, no doubt to find it easier to control them.
Will his plan work? It is hard to tell as Mr Berlusconi has already tried to get himself more power four years ago but could not get the needed majority and was stopped in his tracks by a referendum that followed. But being a determined man he obviously feels that this time he stands a better chance and that the popular mood might swing in his favour.
Although the Italian media has made a big song and dance about Mr Berlusconi’s recent problems with his marriage, his standing in the country remains strong. It has all to do with the fact that the Italian economy seems to be faring relatively well compared to the economies of other European countries. Also, the government’s quick response to the recent earthquake has boosted the prime minister’s popularity and his tough stance on immigration has received strong support among some groups of the population. But the feeling that he is becoming more authoritarian in his ambitions is also growing and it would probably be a tough job to convince the Italian people that a ‘revolution’ that looks suspiciously like a one-man coup is what they need now.
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