Italy's Fear of Fascism
Newsday, June 5, 2001
used by permission

    Before passing judgement on the longevity and legitimacy of Silvio Berlusconi's prospective center-right administration, it would be wise to eschew gratuitous remarks about Italy's so-called revolving-door governments ["For Italy's Berlusconi, So Much to Do, So Little Time," May 21]. Italy's post-World-War II political coalitions "tend to fall apart with clockwork regularity" not because of some propensity for instability, but because of what can only be called an inordinate fear of fascism.

    The prosperous Italian republic that emerged from the ashes of the Second World War rejected the notion of a strong central government. Instead, Italy put a premium on proportional representation in parliament. This gave rise to a myriad of political parties and the rambunctious polity that so fascinates the fourth estate.

    Although Berlusconi's seven-month tenure as prime minister in 1994 was indeed tumultuous, this time promises to be different. For one thing, his Forza Italia garnered 29.5 percent of the vote to become Italy's biggest party. Berlusconi does not need the support of the Northern League's Umberto Bossi to form a government. It was Bossi who derailed Berlusconi's first administration. Having failed to gain the minimum 4 percent needed for representation in parliament, the neo-separatist Bossi has been effectively neutered in 2001.

    As leader of the world's fifth most powerful industrial democracy, Berlusconi will welcome President George W. Bush to Genoa, Christopher Columbus' hometown, for the annual G-7 summit conference in July. Perhaps il Cavaliere can give Dubya some advice about getting out the vote. During the recent campaign, 80 percent of the Italian electorate went to the polls.

Rosario A. Iaconis

Editor's Note: The writer is director of the Italic Studies Institute.



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