Silvio Berlusconi (photo, from RFI), a two-time former prime minister, has won a majority in both houses of Italy’s parliament, at the weekend elections. The leader of the conservative People of Freedom party, 71, received a phone call on Monday, from Italy’s centre-left leader, Walter Veltroni, who conceded victory to the billionaire.
“I will govern for five years”, said Silvio Berlusconi after his rival call. He added : “we have difficult months ahead that will require great strength.” And before ending the telephone interview he offered “an affectionate kiss to all Italians.”
“As is customary in all Western democracies, and as I feel it is right to do, I called the leader of the People of Freedom, Silvio Berlusconi, to acknowledge his victory and wish him good luck in his job”, said Walter Veltroni (photo, from politica italiana), a former mayor of Rome.
Projections from partial results give Berlusconi’s party a lead of 44.9 per cent to Veltroni’s 39.2 per cent in the lower house. In Italy’s upper house, the Senate, Berlusconi is predicted to take 46.6 per cent, against 38.7 per cent for the opposition. It means that the People of Freedom party will have a 101-seat lead in the Chamber, and a 38-seat advantage in the Senate.
Berlusconi’s victory in the lower house had been expected, but his clear advance in the Senate will consolidate his capacity to push through structural changes, needed to pull Italy away form the brink of recession.
But the new prime minister will still need to make difficult deals with potential partners. Without the Northern League support, Silvio Berlusconi would lose his majority, so he will have to deal with its wish of extensive autonomy for Italy’s regions.
“If Berlusconi wins a clear victory, as these projections suggest, we will at least have a government and that is a better outcome for the economy than the uncertainty of a hung parliament”, said Silvia Pepino, a JP Morgan economist.
Tax cuts and handouts
According to Franco Pavoncello, a political science professor at Rome’s John Cabot University, “Berlusconi won because he has a strong coalition and because people feel that on the other side, the government is going to take them nowhere.”
These early elections were provoked by Romano Prodi’s centre-left coalition government, which collapsed in January, after only 20 months in power.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts that the Italian economy, the world’s seventh largest, will grow 0.3 percent this year, compared with a 1.4 percent average growth for the 15-country euro area.
But even though Italy has a massive public debt, Mr Berlusconi has promised tax cuts and handouts to voters.
To James Walston, a political scientist at the American University of Rome, people would expect Berlusconi “to pull big rabbits out of his hat, but he’s only going to give them small ones.”
On Monday, Silvio Berlusconi said that his top priorities were settling the future of state-controlled airline Alitalia, that the outgoing administration was struggling to privatise, and solve the crisis caused by the uncollected mountains of rubbish in Naples.
This new government will be Italy’s 62nd since World War II.