berlusconi wins italian elections
The election of Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister for the third time in fifteen years is good news for American foreign policy but may or may not be good news for the Italian people. "Berlusca," as he is sometimes known, has many of the right economic ideas--lower taxes, less regulation--but also a history of corruption and personal foibles that are rather less inspiring for Italy's future. The return of a familiar figure, which in steadier times might be reassuring, is less so at a time when many Italians remain depressed about the country's economic, political, and even demographic prospects.
On the brighter side, the election provides evidence Italy's political system is transitioning, slowly but surely, toward a stable, bipolar system. The two principal parties, Berlusconi's Popolo della Liberta' (roughly, People's Freedom Party) and the new Democratic Party, a coalition of former communists and other left-leaning or reformist groups, together received more than 70 percent of the aggregate vote--more than 80 percent if allied parties are included--with the largest remaining total going to an essentially regional bloc. In the long run this bipolar system, and the alternation of power that it suggests, are likely to provide a better future than the morass of small parties and shifting coalitions that have typically characterized postwar Italy.