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Daniela Piana

This chapter focuses on the relationships between politics, justice, and the media. Italian politics has had an unusual interaction with the justice system, channeled and amplified by the media over the last 20 years or so. In particular, this chapter analyzes the Supreme Court of Cassation's ruling that convicted Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud. The interpretation of this event is framed in a broader context, namely, the system of inter-institutional accountability of the Italian political system as it has been transformed during the last two decades. Particular attention is devoted to the weaknesses within this system that seem to allow room to maneuver for those institutions charged with oversight, among which courts are of the utmost importance.

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Paolo Bellucci and Martin Bull

In May 2001, for the first time in the history of united Italy and,

therefore, for the first time in the history of the Italian Republic,

alternation in government occurred as a direct consequence of an

electoral victory of the opposition. The incumbent centre left government

(the Ulivo – Olive Tree Coalition, led by Francesco

Rutelli) was defeated, and a centre right coalition (the Casa delle

Libertà, or CDL – House of Freedoms, led by Silvio Berlusconi)

began governing Italy with a large parliamentary majority.

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Francesco Marangoni

On 7 May 2008, Silvio Berlusconi accepted the task of forming the

sixtieth government of the Italian Republic. The birth of the new government

marked what some have defined as “the eternal return of the

knight,” and as such has taken on a unique significance. Berlusconi

became prime minister for the fourth time, barely 2 years after the

end of his previous time in office, and almost 15 years since his first

nomination following the elections of March 1994. In the ranking of

Italian prime ministers according to the number of governments that

they headed, led by Alcide De Gasperi, who was prime minister for

eight terms, Berlusconi comes sixth.

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David Nelken

The relationship in the course of 2002 between Silvio Berlusconi’s

government and the judges was one of continued and unrelenting

conflict. Few days passed wherein justice was not a central news item.

Accounts of battles between the government and the judiciary carried

titles such as “the duel,” and offered complex descriptions of the

moves and countermoves, in both Parliament and the courts, involving

the government, the opposition, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and

the accused. Cases of political, administrative, and business corruption

still came to light from different parts of the country, such as

Turin, Milan, Potenza, Salerno, and Agrigento. But the heady days of

Tangentopoli were long over: it was now the judges who were themselves

under attack. For most of the year, Berlusconi and his associates

cast themselves in the role of victims by arguing that they were

being prosecuted and tried by politically and personally biased judges.

The judiciary was made the object of co-ordinated mass media campaigns

that set out in particular to discredit the Milan court and more

generally to show that when judges’ actions were effective, they were

often illegitimate, and that when they were legitimate, they were usually

not effective. Although some of the printed media still gave

unswerving support to the judges, there was little doubt that the initiative

had passed to the government and its parliamentary majority.

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Guido Legnante

With the double defeat of the center-right in Milan and Naples,

the local elections on 15–16 and 29–30 May 2011 marked a turning

point in Italian politics. In Milan, the “moral capital” and center

of Silvio Berlusconi’s empire, the outgoing mayor, Letizia Moratti,

was defeated by the center-left candidate Giuliano Pisapia in an outcome

that recalled, with the roles reversed, the historic defeat of the

center-left in Bologna in 1999. In Naples, the city that symbolizes the

difficulties faced by the center-left in government, the center-right

candidate Giovanni Lettieri was incapable of offering an alternative

and lost to the outsider, Luigi de Magistris, an ex-magistrate and a

member of Italia dei Valori (IdV, Italy of Values) who, in the first

round, had beaten Mario Morcone, the candidate representing the

Partito Democratico (PD, Democratic Party) and Sinistra Ecologia e

Libertà (SEL, Left Ecology and Freedom).

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Stephen Gundle

In a communiqué to the press dated 3 May 2009, Silvio Berlusconi’s

wife, Veronica Lario, announced that she was divorcing her husband.

The declaration came less than a week after the publication of a message

that she had sent to a press agency denouncing the apparent

intention of her husband’s political party to field a range of showgirls,

singers, and television actresses as candidates in the forthcoming

European elections. Finding this plan disgraceful and humiliating to

women, she dismissed it as “shameless rubbish.” “We have had Mrs.

Thatcher, and today there is Mrs. Merkel. They show that it is possible

for women to have a political career,” she continued.

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Erik Jones

The bond markets turned on Italy during the first weekend of July 2011

as part of a wider loss of confidence in European efforts to manage the

sovereign debt crisis. On Friday, 1 July, the difference—or “spread”—

between Italian and German 10-year government bond yields was 178

basis points or 1.78 percent. The following Monday, 4 July, it was up

to 183 basis points and rising. By Friday, 8 July, the spread was 237

basis points. It remained above that level to the end of the year.1 The

center-right government led by Silvio Berlusconi attempted to head

off this change in sentiment by pushing through successive reform

packages to promote fiscal consolidation and stimulate growth. Bond

traders consistently shrugged off these actions as too little, too late.

Ultimately, the pressure became so great that the center-right coalition

fractured and President Giorgio Napolitano replaced Berlusconi’s

Cabinet with a technocratic government headed by Mario Monti. Even

this, however, was not enough to appease the markets, and the year

ended with Italian bond yields again rising..

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David Natali and Martins Rhodes

The Berlusconi pension reform of 2004 was characterized by identifiable

similarities with the recent past of pensions policy-making, but

also by important differences. A core element of continuity was the

presence of a strong vincolo esterno—external constraint—which pressured

the government to engage in reform. But the pension reform

is also novel in two key respects. First, it was the only successful

unilateral welfare reform in two decades (Silvio Berlusconi’s previous

such attempt in 1994 having contributed to the collapse of his government).

In contrast to the social pacts of the 1990s, the unions were

not co-decision-makers in 2004. The major players, instead, were the

partners of the governing coalition.

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David Hine

From the moment Silvio Berlusconi entered politics in 1994, the

conflict of interest issue has rarely been off the political agenda.

Yet when he returned to power in 2001, the dilemma posed by his

occupancy of Palazzo Chigi was almost exactly the same as it had

been seven years earlier. Much had been said and written on the

subject in the intervening period by politicians, lawyers and academics.

Numerous bills on the regulation of conflicts of interest

were introduced in both subsequent Parliaments. In April 1998, a

bill with very broad cross-party support was agreed upon by the

Chamber of Deputies, and very late in the day, and with important

amendments from the Chamber version, one was approved,

on a far more partisan basis, by the Senate in February 2001.

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Maurizio Cotta and Luca Verzichelli

An assessment of the second Berlusconi government in 2002, quite

predictably, holds considerable interest for a number of reasons. The

hopes pinned on this government, which is unusual in the history of

Italian politics, call for such a review. To begin with, this is the first

republican government characterized by the introduction of the

majority vote system to choose both the ruling coalition and the

prime minister. Secondly, cabinet ministers represent all components

of the electoral majority and can also count on a rather reassuring

advantage in terms of the seats they hold both in the Chamber of

Deputies and in the Senate. Finally, in a radically reshuffled political

structure following the events of the 1990s, the comeback of a player

(who may be identified as Prime Minister Berlusconi as well as the

center-right majority) whose government had failed the first time

around could be profitably analyzed in terms of institutional learning

and of the establishment of a new bipolar/majoritarian order.