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Italy: another gerontocracy

Italy: another gerontocracy

(Financial Times, 18 febbraio 2011)

As the Arab world’s rolling revolution becomes bloodier and more tragic in Libya and Bahrain, autocrats who seem to have ruled forever are quaking. Perhaps elected autocrats should also be on guard. There is a European country that has many characteristics of the Arab world: a sclerotic economy, a culture worn down by corruption and organised crime, and a growing clash of generations. It is controlled by a gerontocratic ruling class entrenched in politics and business to the exclusion of its youth. Its best and brightest young people roam Europe as economic migrants.

That country is Italy. It is a democracy, so the ageing consistory that runs the country should be replaceable. Yet it never is: the more elections Italy has, the less seems to change. No wonder even the “Borghesi” are taking to the streets. A million women marched last Sunday to protest the antics of Silvio Berlusconi, the increasingly ridiculous prime minister. He was indicted this week on charges of paying for sex with an underage girl and abuse of office. He denies wrongdoing.

There is more. The 74-year-old Mr Berlusconi shares many of the traits of the classic Arab plutocrat. He is immensely rich, controls much of the media, and is surrounded by yes-men. He openly defies the judicial system whenever it finds against him (which it occasionally does). He is best buddies with Muammer Gaddafi, the dictator of Libya (and facing his own sea of troubles).

Mr Berlusconi’s most important quality is also common to autocrats: he’s a survivor until the last minute. Hosni Mubarak, lately the dictator of Egypt, might want to have a word with him about the wisdom of that strategy. All the Italian prime minister has to do to end this particularly unedifying commedia is to call an election. That way, Italians can have the last laugh.


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[…] minorile, è un caro amico di Gheddafi e la sua qualità più importante, sempre secondo il Ft, è «anch’essa comune agli autocrati: è un un osso duro che resiste fino all’ultimo […]

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