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Italian election, continued:

Davide Berretta, in today's International Herald Tribune, has a very smart piece about Silvio Berlusconi ("Il Cavaliere," as the press sometimes refers to him here in Italy) and the current national election campaign. Things have been getting a bit weird during this final week (voting is Sunday and Monday) of the campaign. First, in Monday night's debate, Berlusconi, during his final summation, announces that he will abolish the property tax on residences if he wins the election. It came completely out of the blue, and would mean about a 30% loss of revenue for local governments ... and then, after the debate, he was asked by a reporter how he thinks the vote will go; he replied: The Left can't win; I have too much respect for the Italian electorate to think "che ci siano cosi tanti coglioni" -- that they would have the balls -- to vote against their own interests. It is (apparently) a very vulgar expression, not the sort of thing Italians expect their PM to say -- although, as Berretta points out, maybe Berlusconi gets to play by new rules.

Tom Round (mail):
Was he stroking under his chin with three fingers when he said that?
4.7.2006 6:44am
davod (mail):
I would suggest that Italian political speech is not as genteel as implied by the article.

Maybe it is good to havec a little honest talk instead of the normal platitudes before they rip the electorate off.
4.7.2006 8:43am
Smithy (mail) (www):
Berlusconi has been a great leader for Italy and a valuable ally in the war on terror. I suspect that he will win again handily. The Italian people have seen in the past what terrorism can do -- who can forget the Red Bridage? They know that they need a strong leader to continue the fight against Islamofascism. Given its location -- quite near the Middle East -- Italy is at particular risk for terrorism. Berlusconi will keep the country safe. The leftists will cravenly cave in to terrorist, much as the left-wing governmetn in Spain has.
4.7.2006 9:38am
Just Edited:
Just to correct your translation--"che ci siano cosi tanti coglioni" is more accurately translated as "that there are that many assholes." While "coglioni" does in fact mean "balls," it is used very much in the same way as we use "asshole."
4.7.2006 9:58am
Pete Freans (mail):
There are some major issues facing Italy right now. Firstly, the demographic problem has reached a critical situation. Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe and the continuous influx of criminal and terrorist immigrants have frightened even the far left.
The generous pension system (that has been a God-given right for generations of Italians) is bloated and can no longer be adequately sustained. In addition, Italy has had an overly protectionist economy (especially for its workers and failing companies) that has restrained Italy from achieving its economic potential. Hostility toward foreign investment (i.e. foreign company buy-outs of traditional Italian companies) is common and privatization (which Berlusconi has pressed for) sets off protests and polemic debate. Lastly, and an area I am most interested in, Italy’s chaotic legal system is in need of radical reform (according to two Italian lawyers I use as outside counsel on Italian legal issues, the average duration of a civil suit in Italy is between 10-30 years). Navigating through the morass of legal bureaucracy is perilous, time-consuming, and madding at times.

Having said all that, Berlusconi and his coalition have shown more promise than those in the past by attempting pension reform, such as extending the retirement age, and inviting more outside investment into Italy without fear that they are somehow losing their Italian character, among other reforms. In my opinion, a win for Romano Prodi’s coalition would be a return to the same old socialist polices.

So I say to Il Duce, Forza Italia! Forza Berlusconi!
4.7.2006 10:14am
DDWWBB (mail):

Berlusconi will lose because the Italian economy is seen as the weakest in Europe. But Prodi will not win by much because nobody believes his Socialism is likely to do anything but make the economy worse. He may not be a communist, but he is in their coalition. Expect very low voter turn out
4.7.2006 10:21am
Clarence (mail):
How do you come to call such a pathetically biased article "a smart piece"? Berretta wrote "Italians should be eager to give the cocky billionaire the boot...But every nation has its weaknesses..."

Why "should" Italians be eager to replace Berlusconi with a left-wing anti-American little thing like Prodi? It is sad that the IHT puts its editorials in the news section...but that is nothing new, is it?
4.7.2006 11:34am
Tyrone Slothrop (mail) (www):
According to the Mirror, via The Plank, Berlusconi has called sex chat lines to poll women about whom they prefer -- 7 of the 9 women to whom he spoke were for him, he said.


Just to correct your translation--"che ci siano cosi tanti coglioni" is more accurately translated as "that there are that many assholes."


The Financial Times translated it as "dickheads," FWIW.
4.7.2006 11:55am
Houston Lawyer:
A vulgar quote or two can actually help. When asked what he would do if Ted Kennedy ran against him in the 1980 primary, Jimmy Carter responded "I'll whoop his ass". Johnny Carson just loved repeating that one on TV. Edwin Edwards, however, had the best quote. "The only way I can lose this election is if I get caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl."
4.7.2006 11:57am
frankcross (mail):
Clarence, the article was in the opinion section
4.7.2006 1:55pm
Gordo:
The Economist has it dead on about Berlusconi. He is a corrupt pig - his status as Italy's richest man is due to corrupt government connections - he has shamelessly used his office to aggrandize his fortune - and he is a sham as a conservative reformer.

It's too bad some of the earlier commenters on this thread are too blind or ignorant to see through him.

What a choice for Italy - the failed policies of the left vs. this monster.
4.7.2006 2:19pm
SenatorX (mail):
"What a choice for Italy - the failed policies of the left vs. this monster."

Hey I know another country that has that problem...
4.7.2006 3:09pm
Pete Freans (mail):
After a brief meeting of the minds, my Italian sources tell me the above phrase was meant in the sense that Berlusconi doesn't believe there are that many fools (literal translation being "testicles") in Italy that would vote for the Left and against him. He is actually complimenting the Italian citizenry while backhanding Mr. Prodi and the Left.
4.7.2006 3:17pm
curiousgeorge:
As this is unrelated to the original thread, I appologize if my comments disturb the flow of the underlying topic. As an avid reader of the Volokh threads, I wanted to solicit opinions from some readers.

For those of you following the Delay resignation this week, there are some interesting questions that were brought up in conversation. The timing of Delay's resignation poses significant issues of representation for the citizens of the 22nd Congressional District. Delay has decided to step down in such a manner that he can really control the process of selecting the next Republican candidate for Congress.

Gov. Perry (R-TX) has stated that unless Delay steps down by the end of this week, there will NOT be a special election. Instead, the district will most likely not have a representative from June to November.

Let me say this is not a partisan comment. I have no editorial comments on Delay's resignation or any political consequences arising from the resignation. My question, and the question of those I spoke with is the following:

Can a citizen force a special election by suing the Governor? The obvious assertion would be that the Governor is effectively denying citizens their constitutional right of representation in the US House of Representatives. Would a citizen of the district have standing to sue? Would a governor's refusal to hold a special election constitute denial of constitutionally guaranteed rights?

Again, this is not a partisan thread. I just found the question posed by a friend to be quite interesting, and seemingly, the implications on election law would be quite significant.

Thank you in advance for your insight.
4.7.2006 4:02pm
Tom952 (mail):
Il sig. Delay non ha i cojones per affrontare gli elettori.
4.7.2006 5:04pm
Justin (mail):
I assume pointing out that Northern Democratic Socialism is not "failed," is generally not considered to always make economies worse in Europe, and that very few countries have had much success with the type of deregulation suggested by Pete Freans (Italy, of course, being one of those countries without such success), would be a waste of time on this blog?

C'est la vie
4.7.2006 5:30pm
BobN (mail):
Speaking of successful foreign investment in Italy, a cousin of mine works at a textile factory in Italy's Golden Triangle, the industrial heart of the country between Milan, Torino, and Genoa, arguably one of the most entrepreneurial places in the West. The company's employees were leary when a foreign company wanted to buy it, but they believed the benefits of an infusion of capital and world-market savvy would lead to even more growth for their already busy specialized textiles plant. My cousin's last assignment for the company was to supervise the dismantling, packing and shipping of their highly specialized equipment, unique in the world, to its new home in China.
4.7.2006 7:28pm
BobN (mail):

So I say to Il Duce, Forza Italia! Forza Berlusconi!


Uh... I really hope you meant to type "Il Cavaliere" not "Il Duce". Freudian slip?

For those who don't read Italian, the Repubblica story linked to above includes a description of the crowd at Berlusconi's rally closing the campaign. Maybe Americans think it's sort of cute and don't take it seriously, but shouts of "Duce, Duce" should send shivers down your spine.
4.7.2006 7:35pm
Pete Freans (mail):
BobN:

Actually, I did mean "Il Duce" and it's a common nickname given to Berlusconi in Italy. Benito Mussolini does not have the same stigma or taboo that, for example, Adolf Hitler has in Germany. In fact there are many people in Italy who look fondly upon the Mussolini years, so much so, that Alessandra Mussolini (the dictator's granddaughter) has been elected to both the Italian and the EU's parliaments and is currently running again in the 2006 elections next week.
4.7.2006 8:44pm
Justin (mail):
Peter, I think he was making more of a normative statement rather than a positive one. I concur with his normative statement - fascism is bad even sans holocaust.
4.7.2006 9:02pm
BobN (mail):

Actually, I did mean "Il Duce" and it's a common nickname given to Berlusconi in Italy.


Coming from his detractors, it's understandable. Coming from his supporters, it's shameful.
4.7.2006 11:19pm
Burt Likko (mail) (www):
Justin, shouldn't that have been "che siamo la vita"?
4.8.2006 5:45am
Michael Livingston (mail):
My dictionary has "testicle" or "ball" for coglione but adds figurative meanings of "idiot, fool, moron, . . . jerk" (it is a very high-tone dictionary). That Berlusconi said "siano" (would be) as opposed to "abbiano" (would have) coglioni suggests he meant the latter usage. Berlusconi's behavior has been increasingly erratic during the past few weeks which suggests he is preparing himself politically and psycologically for a loss which now seems entirely probable.

"A proposito," by the way, I have rarely heard Berlusconi referred to as Duce except by his worst enemies, even those who admire Fascism having been forced to admit that Mussolini was, well, somewhat flawed in his presentation. The title "cavaliere" or "knight" is by contrast legitimate, the idea of "knight of the republic" having been created as a sort of substitute for inherited titles which are banned under the Italian constitution. So if anyone outside the opera tells you "I am the Duke of Savoia," or some such thing, you can tell them that they are a liar. Or in the spirit above, "macche coglione sei!"
4.8.2006 10:37am