Italy's Berlusconi Attempts to Govern Despite Continued Political Stalemate

Berlusconi
Berlusconi
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ROME – Stymied in his efforts to emerge from Italy’s political impasse to become prime minister for the fourth time, media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi says he will start governing anyway.

Italy’s Feb. 24-25 elections left Berlusconi’s coalition, that of center-left candidate Pier Luigi Bersani, and the party created by funnyman-turned-activist Beppe Grillo with blocs of votes inadequate to form a majority in parliament’s upper house. Efforts to resolve the crisis through compromise have failed: Berlusconi’s offers to Bersani have been refused, while Bersani’s own repeated overtures to Grillo have been rebuffed.

Berlusconi, the billionaire media tycoon who has already been prime minister three times, appears to have lost patience with the process, now entering its seventh week with no solution in site: over the weekend, Berlusconi announced he instructed his allies in parliament to begin introducing legislation.

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Starting April 15, next Monday, parliamentarians in Berlusconi’s coalition will introduce eight bills that reflect the most popular planks in his party’s campaign platform, starting with a bill that would abolish a controversial property tax.

“With other parties committing themselves to wasting time, we … always keep the interests of the country in mind,” Berlusconi announced via social media.

Experts said the move would put Berlusconi on the offensive in the political negotiations, and it comes at a time when his coalition is already enjoying increased popularity compared to its rivals. A poll from the polling firm Opinioni from Friday said that if another national vote were held today, Berlusconi would be the only one of the three main blocs that would improve its position compared to its finish after the Feb. 24-25 vote.

In addition to his plans to propose legislation, Berlusconi remains in the headlines because of his legal problems: in the last six months he was sentenced to four years in jail for tax evasion in connection content acquisitions for his Mediaset television and cinema giant, and a further year for a wire tap case. Both verdicts are under appeal. Meanwhile, another trial, alleging abuse of power and paying an under-age girl for sex, continues. 

Berlusconi's holdings include three national television networks in Italy and one in Spain, the Medusa film production and distribution house, the country's largest ad buyer and several print media.

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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