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From Rome To Cairo: Struggles for Democracy

The Mediterranean is a place of apparent difference, but one in which politics and culture are often more similar than we might at first suspect. This blog looks at Italy, Egypt and the relationship each has with the other shore of the 'Med', thinking about political trends in both countries, reflecting on the dangers and opportunities for democracy each of these experiences presents us with.

 

Background on Italy's General Elections: What's at stake in Italy?

For those who missed the Italian general elections last month, here is a small summary of the issues at stake which first appeared in Egypt Independent a couple of weeks ago as "An Italian spring? Italy’s 2013 general election."
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As results from Italy’s general elections on 24–25 February began trickling through, it was clear that the country’s scandal-ridden political class had received a wake-up call.

Italy's Delicate Balancing Act: Berlusconi in the Balance, Italy on the block

The recent surprise success of the Movimento Cinque Stelle (Five Star Movement, or M5S) in Italy's recent elections and the heavy losses suffered by both Berlusconi and his centre-left counterparts in the Democratic Party have produced a kind of Mexican standoff in which the stakes are not just who will form the next Italian government, but how the country's politicians will deal with enormous social and economic challenges in an EU country which is truly 'too big to fail'.

…The short version:

While Rome is Burning

There has never been such rejoicing at the resignation of a post-war Prime Minster as was on display yesterday in the streets of Rome: music, popped champagne and dancing in the streets, and much talk of a page being turned in Italian history. This, however, remains to be seen.

The Egyptian Gambit

In chess, a gambit is a risky strategy in which a player offers a short-term advantage to his opponent in exchange for some other longer-term gain.

The demonstrations which took place outside the Israeli embassy last night in Cairo go to the heart of the ‘Egyptian gambit’ which has been played out on the Middle Eastern chess board for decades: political elites allow a frustrated Egyptian population to vent their anger against a recognizable ‘enemy’, and bear ensuing political heat because it allows them to exert leverage abroad and protects their legitimacy at home.

Purging State Media

In the past few days, both flagship newscasts by Italy's state-owned public service RAI, Tg1 and Tg2, have made 'mistakes' in reporting the dates for the four referenda, stating they would be held on June 13 and 14, while they will actually be held on June 12 and 13. Tg1 made this mistake two days ago, but even more incredibly Tg2 repeated that mistake yesterday. How is it possible for both programmes to get it wrong, not least on two different days?

Another Week in the Post-democratic Trenches

After surprising electoral defeats, average democratic leaders would eat humble pie.

Berlusconomics

Ratings agencies may have been roundly (and rightly) booed over the past few years for the deep flaws in their work, but markets and governments still pay attention, especially when ratings for weak economies are downgraded.

Berlusconi's defeat

Berlusconi's personal reputation and political position took a blow today: in the run-off elections between his right-wing party candidates and left-wing independents, Letizia Moratti and Nicola Lettieri were roundly trounced. In Berlusconi's Milan stronghold, Moratti was roundly defeated by 55.1% to 44.9% by lawyer and former communist Gianluigi Pisapia. In Naples, former anti-corruption judge Luigi De Magistris gained 66% against a right-wing candidate whose political patron is being investigated for links to the most powerful Camorra clan, the Casalesi.

Berlusconi's Guilt

Berlusconi constantly says the accusations made against him in court are groundless, because he's never been found guilty. Not so fast - let's have a look at his most prominent trials so far:

1. Perjury in the 'P2 case': Accusation with foundation: the Court of Appeal says Berlusconi is guilty, but he is saved by an amnesty

Spaghetti Orientalism: From Tunis to Schengen

We have recently been treated to the unedifying spectacle of EU governments scrambling to 'revise Schengen': no sooner had France and Italy called for this, than Denmark put customs officers on its borders with Germany and Sweden. Thinly-veiled xenophobia has been lurking in the background throughout. As soon as refugees began arriving in Italy, Italian politicians began crying blue murder. Roberto Maroni, in particular, spoke of a "human tsunami".