Spain's recent pro-democracy movement, 'Los Indignados' (the outraged), has attracted a lot of international attention because it is directed against both Left and Right, both culpable of ignoring their voters, pushing austerity measures which hit the poorest hardest, and doing nothing for unemployment which stand currently at around 20% nationally. And foreigners have begun to notice that #ItalianRevolution is trending on Twitter. But Italy has had a series of protest movements over the past few years -- e.g. the Popolo Viola (Purple People), which I've written about on this blog -- and these have so far gone unnoticed. What have they been protesting about? Exactly the same things as their Spanish counterparts: corruption in public life, indifference to voters, absurd 'emergency' budgets which hit the poorest (the last was worth €20bn, when corruption is estimated at €120bn annually), and 18-35 youth unemployment which stands at 30% nationally, with several areas hitting 50%.
In the meantime, local elections confirm just how shaky Berlusconi's rule is: he took a beating in Turin and Bologna, is being faced down in Naples (Italy's third-largest city) and was surprisingly beaten into a second round run-off in his stronghold of Milan, where his candidate surprisingly lost 48% to 41%. This despite a virtually unopposed media barrage against his opponents. His most crucial ally, the separatist Lega Nord whose N. 2 Roberto Maroni is Italy's Interior Minister who infamously spoke about North African refugees as a 'human tsunami' and sparked what has become the EU's 'Schengen Crisis', has taken a real beating, not going above 10% where in parts of the North it reaches 40%. There is a lot of opposition in Italy to Berlusconi, if only our friends abroad would take notice of it. Who knows, if European counterparts actually voiced their dissatisfaction and frustration --and in many cases virtual desperation-- at Italy's shambolic government, who knows, it might hasten Berlusconi's departure.
Time for an Italian Spring, too.