Berlusconi: "Just call me Il Duce. Oh, sorry. Did I say 'Il Duce'? I meant, erm... Oh - look over there! It's the Goodyear Blimp!"
Not content with reforming the voting system ahead of April's elections, apparently to give himself a better chance of beating ex-EU Commission bod Romano Prodi (aka a potential Nosemonkey political hero for his consistant refusal to join any political party), dear old Silvio (aka "most corrupt man in western Europe") has just passed yet more constitutional reforms. This time giving himself the right to dissolve parliament and dismiss ministers at will, bypassing the head of state. Effectively the equivalent of Tony Blair passing a law declaring himself King.
To which our man Prodi (pray he somehow wins...) responded with typical eloquence:
"A few months before the elections, a governing majority which knows it no longer enjoys the country's confidence, which has lost all the electoral tests of recent years, which is divided and fragmented on the inside and incapable of leadership on the outside, is about to strike the definitive blow at our constitution."He doesn't exaggerate. Also included in the bill are widespread reforms which could at first glance look as if they're abolishing the Italian central government - transferring responsibility for education, health and policing to the regions. Much as if Blair suddenly announced that the failures in the NHS and state school system are no longer going to be dealt with by Whitehall, and washed his hands of the whole thing. Which many in Britain would welcome (perhaps rightly - let's face it, it'd be difficult to cock things up any more...).
In Italy, however, you can't trust Berlusconi as far as you could chuck his vast piles of cash. This is (and I will admit this is purely, like, my opinion, man) simply a way of shifting the blame away from central government - which retains the right to intervene and meddle at any point.
These are the most significant reforms since the post-Mussolini constitution came into force in 1948, and place more power in one man's hands than has been seen in Italy since the time of the baldy blackshirt. Berlusconi's response to Prodi's criticisms, however?
"Prodi's tones are not those of political debate but of civil war"Yay! Great idea! Bring up the idea of civil war having just apparently devolved powers to the regions in a country which has only been unified for a bit over a century, has widespread regional economic disparities, a history of corruption and violence, and has famously had the least stable governments imaginable since the fall of the last strong leader... It's shaping up to be quite an interesting time in Italy over the next six months.
Oh yes, lest I forget, yesterday Berlusconi also vowed to change the law which guarantees political parties equal access to the media during election campaigns. The fact that he just happens to own the majority of the Italian media is just, like, a happy coincidence and stuff, obviously... So fingers crossed for a boom in the world of Italian blogs - a few English language ones of which I was previously unaware I've discovered today: Italy Magazine's news blog, A Welshman in Milano and Beppe Grillo. The always good North Sea Diaries also has a bit of a Berlusconi fixation. If you know of any more, let me know.