After surprising electoral defeats, average democratic leaders would eat humble pie. Not Berlusconi, he just ploughs ahead, continuing his assault on independent media, his slanderously vitriolic assaults on the opposition, his wheeler-dealing to buy off internal party opposition (primarily by again talking about his slavish Justice Minister Angelo Alfano, who designed several attempts to 'immunize' the PM form prosecution, and spotted here kissing Palma di Montechiari's notorious mafia boss, Croce Napoli) as his heir), and all the while the economy heads for new depths.
- Manipulating the media (again): Berlusconi-controlled state TV fined (again) for pro-Berlusconi bias during local election campaign. In the meantime, the very same programme totally ignores the President of the Republic on Republic Day (it's the 150th anniversary of Italian unity), highlights Berlusconis actually marginal role, and attacks its own colleagues on state broadcaster RAI's channel 3, its most independent, while Berlusconi himself says "we will do something about [independent/opposition investigative journalism programme] Annozero in Parliament"
- Honouring Italy's SS: Berlusconi's party tables a motion to officially recognise the 'repubblichini', the ultra-fascist groups of the breakaway "Salo' Republic", a Nazi puppet state which Mussolini established in the North of Italy after he was removed as Prime Minister in 1943. This would give them equal status with the Resistance who fought them. The idea has been floated before, and has so far been championed individually by party members like Ignazio La Russa, currently Defense Minister, but it is the first time that this effectively becomes party policy.
- Post-election funk: The Economist follows up its badly-timed article a week ago on Italians "United in Apathy", with one about the damage done to Berlusconi by losing the elections so spectacularly. Incredibly, The Economist vents frustration against Italy's public spending, while remaining silent (again) on the value of corruption, tax evasion, organised crime and laundered money, each of which is with over €100bn, or at least five times last year's emergency budget. When they don't entirely miss the core issues, what most Anglophone observers seem to miss is that in Milan and Naples, where Berlusconi suffered his worst defeats, candidates a) were snubbed by the mainstream left as much as by Berlusconi's right, and b) they ran on law and order and social justice tickets, cross-ideological, and strong indications of just how out of touch both mainstream parliamentary left and right are [something I managed to point out in a recent programme on Al-Jazeera]. Anna Masera in today's Guardian (UK) points to the internal balancing act within the right-wing coalition, but also misses the broader picture, namely that Italians, whether they vote for the mainstream opposition candidate (as in Milan), or a gay former communist (in Apulia) or 'maverick' former magistrate De Magistris (in Naples) are fed up with a politics built on mutual favours, power-grabbing and corruption more than on any political ideology, and which systematically sacrifices their interests, their jobs and their futures. The main opposition Democratic Party has now overtaken Berlusconi's Freedom People as the country's largest, but they should not make the mistake of thinking their position is secure - they themselves have lost about as much in the polls as Berlusconi since the last elections.
- pre-referendum assault: On June 12 and 13, Italians will go to the polls to vote on four referenda (the Constitution allows citizens to gather signatures to vote to propose or annul legislation). Berlusconi is desperately trying to stop the vote, for two reasons: first, he might lose an election the the second time in barely a couple of weeks; secondly, one of the referenda is on the 'legitimate impediment' clause, i.e. the power Berlusconi has repeatedly tried to give himself to avoid his own trials. On the latter, the Constitutional Court recently ruled the temporary decree giving Berlusconi that power unconstitutional, and losing the vote would definitively seal Berlusconi's position as that of any other citizen (and thus the trials would go ahead). More importantly, that referendum is essentially a vote on Berlusconi's way of doing politics. So the government is trying to prevent some of the referenda from going ahead (e.g. on abandoning nuclear energy, like Germany did recently). Belrusconi keeps stating that the referenda are "useless and deceitful", but notably instead of mobilising his party for a vote against the proposals, he is boycotting the vote, trying to prevent the 50% quorum from being reached (if it isn't, the results are invalidated). In the meantime, the Italian equivalent of the BBC's News At Ten tells its listeners the referendum is on June 13-14, which many believe is a mistake conveniently compatible with Berlusconi's hopes of preventing the minimum number of voters from showing up.
- delay & distract: In the meantime, in Berlusconi's trial for facilitating the prostitution of a minor (the (in)famous 'Ruby' case), his lawyer (and party MP) is tabling 16 objections to the trial even going ahead aiming to delay procedures until July 6th, when the Constitutional Court is to decide on a motion tabled by Berlusconi's coalition in the Chamber of Deputies to have the trial heard elsewhere: the evidence against Berlusconi is exceptionally strong, so he needs to find a tribunal of well-disposed judges (as he has succeeded in doing in the past).
- Sicko: Berlusconi's former wife, Veronica Lario, alleged a while back in reference to her soon-to-be-ex-husband's sexual preferences, that Berlusconi "is a sick man, he needs help", in reference to his predilection for young girls (at least two of which, Noemi Laetita and Karima 'Ruby' El-Marough, were minors). Now Formula 1 boss Flavio Briatore, Berlusconi 'insider', has allegedly been intercepted saying "Berlusconi is sick, just like Veronica said".