Swiss media see no change for Italy

Berlsuconi is back in the driver's seat for the third time

The Swiss press is warning that Italians have probably gained nothing from Silvio Berluconi's emphatic win in their country's general elections.

This content was published on April 15, 2008

They point out that the billionaire businessman, who easily defeated the centre-left led by Walter Veltroni, has already had two opportunities to reform Italy's political system – opportunities that he failed to grasp.

The Tribune de Genève called Berlusconi's win a chance to avenge his defeat at the hands of Romano Prodi in 2006. It added that "il Cavaliere", as he is known, had bounced back in no time at all from being called a has-been to becoming the next prime minister.

The Basler Zeitung highlighted the fact that Berlusconi put all means at his disposal to make his comeback. "That he only thinks of power for himself and his people does not bode well for a new start in the worsening situation in which Italy finds itself," it added.

Zurich's Tages-Anzeiger sees the triumph of the anti-politician. "During the campaign, he was back to his old form, criticising the president, calling for prosecutors and judges to be sent to the asylum, and generally showing his contempt for Italian institutions," it said.

The newspaper warned that the country was only going to sink further into polemics and the politics of special interests.

The Berner Zeitung pointed out that Berlusconi's return was certainly not that of a new man. "What is sad is that 14 years after he entered politics, his shallow jokes, empty promises and his infectious optimism are enough to earn him a majority," it said.

Impossible to lose

For Bern's Bund, Italy's richest man could not lose these elections, or rather Veltroni had no chance of winning them. The centre-left paid the price for the Prodi government's lack of solutions for the country's woes.

"The win of 71-year-old Berlusconi is a sign of deep resignation. Italy is one of the worst governed states in Europe, and in the past few months, as any hope of change under Prodi vanished, the country settled into a kind of fatalism," it wrote.

Geneva's Le Temps added that the vote was against the incumbent coalition in Rome, and not on the basis of any programme outlined by the election winner.

Fribourg's La Liberté called the billionaire businessman a "phoenix of political strategy", but added that his victory said a lot about Italy, "the consenting victim of an inveterate seducer, a man only interested in using institutions for his own purposes".

The Swiss media seem unconvinced that Berlusconi will be able to implement changes. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung warned that he will have to govern with his Lega Nord coalition partner, stronger than ever after these elections.

"It will possibly become an uncomfortable ally, pressuring to push through its own special interests," it added.

The Zurich paper says that there are few positive points to take from these Italian elections. While Veltroni's attempt to sell change à la Obama failed, it has led to the creation of a stronger centreleft party, now free of unwanted allies further to the left.

"There is some hope: the Italian party jungle has been hacked away, leaving only two strong poles," it wrote. "[But] a renewal of Italy's political institutions will not happen without dialogue and cooperation between these two camps."

"Berlusconi and Veltroni have suggested they are ready to talk. Now they have to prove it."

swissinfo, Scott Capper

In brief

Around 389,000 Italians living in Switzerland were registered to vote in these elections, of which 47.32 per cent cast a ballot.

Worldwide, there are nearly three million Italian voters living outside of their homeland.

Twelve seats (out of 630) are reserved for Italians abroad in the House of Representatives and six (out of 350) in the Senate.

118 candidates from all over Europe stood for election, 58 resident in Switzerland.

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Italian election results

Silvio Berlusconi has won his third Italian election with a bigger than expected swing to the centre-right.

Votes were still being counted on Tuesday, but with Berlusconi's victory clear on Monday evening, centre-left leader Walter Veltroni called the 71-year-old to concede defeat.

Pollsters' projections, based on partial results, gave Berlusconi a 99-seat majority in the 630-member lower house and an advantage of up to 30 seats in the Senate, which has 315 elected and seven lifetime senators.

That contrasts with the two-seat Senate majority that the government had under Prodi, who resigned in January 20 months into his five-year term. Berlusconi had set his sights on a 20-seat majority in the Senate.

A surprise winner in the election was Berlusconi's junior coalition partner, the anti-immigration Lega Nord which doubled its result over the 2006 election to around eight per cent.

The big loser of the election was the left. Excluded from Veltroni's Democratic Party, the Rainbow Left, made up of Communists and Greens, fared so badly it may not win any seats.

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