Last week, Italian media reported that Silvio Berlusconi was considering running as a candidate in the 2019 elections to the European Parliament. "I will still be in the field at the next elections to save the country I love," said the politician, who turned 82 on September 29.
Sputnik has discussed Berlusconi's political prospects with Giovanni Orsina, a political scientist and professor of contemporary history at the LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome, and author of "Berlusconism in Italian History."
Sputnik: Berlusconi wants to run for the 2019 European election, despite the fact that, as we know, the polls are not in his favor. Professor Orsina, how many chances does the former prime minister have and how many votes do you think he can still win?
Orsina: I think that we are talking about marginal figures, as various opinion polls say. It is clear that this person still has his role and his visibility and there is still part of his electorate that is fond of him. That Berlusconi remains in the field does not give the idea of a complete demobilization of Forza Italia, although it is clear that he belongs to the past; now the strong man on that side is Salvini.
I therefore believe that Berlusconi cannot have a particularly strong impact. There is some impact, perhaps: it could be two [percent of the] votes or a maximum of four [percent]. Certainly, taking 10 percent or 6 percent isn't the same thing, but we are talking about a marginal impact.
Sputnik: Berlusconi says he wants to save Italy from ignorance, incoherence and social hatred. But what do you think he really wants to save the country from?
Orsina: It's quite clear that Berlusconi has a double position on this government: the position on the League is one thing and the position on the Five Star is another.
With regard to the League, his position is to consider them allies: they say things that he doesn't always like but, all things considered, they remain part of the right, of the alliance. His opinion of the Five Star is radically different: he views them as a gang of incompetents, amateurs and pauperists, with a culture of welfarism and statism. The Five Star movement was born against Berlusconi, who is fiercely opposed to it.
When Berlusconi says he wants to save Italy, his plan is obviously to take Salvini back: in a responsible and serious alliance instead of a gang of swindlers, he will return to being a serious and responsible right-wing ruler.
Sputnik: Speaking of Salvini, how do you see the pair, Salvini — Berlusconi, in the future of the right?
Orsina: I believe that it will be decided when we have an election in which we will have to make alliances. All that is said before is just talking. In the European elections, where the proportional system is used, they would have to be separated. When you go to a political vote, if the current electoral system remains in place, Salvini can decide which way to choose.
All the options are being kept open. The Italian political system is so fluid and in motion that for Salvini the smartest thing to do is to keep two possibilities: an alliance with Berlusconi and one with the Five Stars. It will be clear which way to go six months before the next political vote.
Sputnik: Berlusconi, at the age of 82 and with a party in descent, returns to the field anyway. Why won't he give up? How do you explain the "Berlusconi" phenomenon?
Orsina: In my opinion, there are two components, neither of which is strictly political: a human component and a corporate component. The human component is that of a person who doesn't want to die and obviously wants to remain at the center of the game. It's a way to stay alive!
If we think about it, the "bunga bunga", which has become a worldwide joke, is part of this question, to which we add a deeper and, if we want to be dramatic, more profound one: the way in which a person who was then almost 80 years old and had a tumor in his back tries to push the end away.
The corporate question concerns the economic interests that Berlusconi continues to have and the possibility of defending them through a political role. Let us remember that there are currently no political successors to Berlusconi because he himself has always prevented their birth.
Silvio Berlusconi, 82, is an Italian media tycoon who emerged on the country's political scene in the 1990s. In 1993, he launched his own center-right political party, Forza Italia, which won gained a relative majority in the 1994 parliamentary election roughly three months after its foundation.
The Invincible One
Berlusconi served as Italian prime minister in four governments in 1994-1995, 2001-2006 and 2008-2011. He resigned as PM in 2011 amid an acute debt crisis in the eurozone, after the Italian Parliament passed austerity measures sought by the EU.
In 2013, Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in prison on tax fraud charges, three of which were automatically pardoned and the [other] 12 months were replaced by social community work due to his senior age. The tax fraud conviction, however, led to the Senate barring him from public office for six years. The same year, Berlusconi received a seven-year jail term for paying for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan girl and banned from public office for life. However, the court overturned its decision during the appeal process, without him ever spending a day in jail.
Despite all his troubles with law, Silvio returned to politics and became a member of Parliament after the March 4 election in Italy. During the vote, the center-right coalition, consisting of Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the anti-immigrant Eurosceptic Lega, Brothers of Italy, and Us with Italy, won around 37 percent of the vote. Earlier in May, the Milan court ruled to lift the ban on Berlusconi, giving him the possibility to run for office again.
The views and opinions expressed by Giovanni Orsina are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.