Elections in Italy start Sunday, and today is the last day that the candidates can campaign. Tomorrow is a “reflection day” so that the voters can make their choices in relative silence.
The European Economist (coming out today) has on the cover: “Basta: Time for Italy to sack Berlusconi!” – you can view the cover here and read about the article here (it’s premium content on the Economist otherwise)
So, Berlusconi, the current Prime Minister, has made some interesting comments recently. Most notably, that he was “sure of victory because he didn’t think there were that many coglioni in Italy that would vote against their own interests.” (against their own interests = voting liberal, or left) And coglione is literally testicle, but it really means stupid/f’ing idiot or of that genre…it is one of the worst curse words that you could use, and especially as the Prime Minister in a public place, referring to your constituents! (or in this case, opponents)
He did not apologize for the remark – directly after saying it (you can see this in the video), he says, “coarse words, but effective.” Later he and others remarked that it was meant to be an ironic statement. Sarcasm, maybe, but not irony. Ironic that he’s calling other people coglione, perhaps.
This is a man who has virtually hyptonized the Italian people for more than a decade, as a business man and a politician. Let’s first admire the man for his strengths on what may be a parting farewell.
(I hope that I stir up some conversation with this)
First of all, anything can be said about Berlusconi EXCEPT that he’s not a brilliant strategist. He is. Whether this makes for a good public servant, this is another discussion entirely.
He has done pretty much everything – created a political party, built a second city (Milano due), graduated cum laude in law, owns TV stations, publishing companies, a football team…he isn’t the richest man in Italy for nothing. His savvy and intuition as a businessman are hard to dispute. His ethics and business practices may make easier targets.
What about Berlusconi as a communicator?
He is quite an effective orator, except the times that he’s attempted to speak in English and for his recent coglione comment. He uses the timbre of his voice, inflection and especially hand gestures to emphasize points and draw in the public. He is very charismatic and comparing him to Romani Prodi (more of an Al Gore type character) as a speaker is no contest.
In the last 30 seconds of the second public debate with Prodi, he made an outrageous promise, to abolish property taxes on your primary house (a tax called ICI). He made this statement as his final parting shot before finishing. Prodi wasn’t supposed to have another turn, and therefore, no rebuttal or discussion could be made during the debate.
Furbo, eh? (Furbo/a= clever/tricky)
Of course the discussion over this statement has taken place through the newspapers but he achieved the shock factor, and the “what if?” that many on-the-fence voters may now be contemplating. His appointed-Minister of the Treasury backed him up on the viability of abolishing the tax, of course.
One of the things he does constantly while other people are speaking, and while he’s speaking, is to “write” on the pad of paper he always has in front of him. Of course, if the camera tries to zoom in on what he is writing, it is illegible, but it gives the viewer a sense that the man is doing calculations, making notes. He’s organized. He’s a businessman. He means what he is saying, and he can prove it. This is what he’s trying to convey. People are fascinated with this. If you take a look at the debates that you can still see on Repubblica.it, you will see this immediately.
Another strategy…he is constantly worried about his hair. His is 70 years old, after all. His hair is like its own entity, sometimes shown as a fuzzy cloud hovering above his scalp, sometimes it appears to be growing, sometimes not. He had some plugs put in, and during that time, he wore a bandana to make himself look “more hip” and in tune with the younger people. Yeah, right.
So, sometimes, just to avoid the whole hair problem entirely, he is featured in the ad with the top of his head artistically cut off.
In Italy, there is a law that candidates must have equal time on television for their speeches and political statements during the campaign time. After the coglione statement, he tried to get back on one of the TV stations he owns (not one of the goverment TV stations he oversees, don’t get confused) possibly to try and repair some of the damage. There was another uproar about this. He didn’t go on TV.
A few months ago, when this enforced-equal-TV-time was in effect, he was getting nervous that his opponents were getting so much TV time. So what does he do? He goes to the U.S. where he speaks to the Congress, and therefore he is again on all the main television channels and newspapers.
He’s nobody’s fool.
But I think he’s getting a little nervous. Of losing. This may be why he’s accusing the judges of trying to throw him out of office, and asking the United Nations to come and observe the elections to avoid vote-rigging.
This is going to be an interesting election. I just hope that many people don’t have the “Kerry Syndrome” where a group of opposition (liberal left) is speaking loudly but they are forgetting about the silent right….we’ll see which iceberg is bigger. Change is good, right?