Italy’s biggest scandals as of late have a common trait: they all involve phone tapping (intercettazioni telefoniche). Many personalities, suspected of acting wrong (something that is very often much more than a suspicion), have had their phones tapped; actually, many common people have had their phones tapped, and that has been a scandal on its own.
The irony is that the people whose phones are tapped and are consequently prosecuted often complain that their privacy has been threatened.
Such is the most recent case, which involves mr. Silvio Berlusconi, construction and television tycoon turned politician. The story of his success is sparkling with darkness, more than any other Italian politician – and that is definitely something. But back to the current news.
An Italian newspaper, Repubblica, reports that mr. Berlusconi (leader of the right-wing coalition) has been trying to buy some senators’ votes to make the current government to collapse. It’s not hard, as it risks toppling whenever there is Parliament activity: the majority is very, very narrow, possibly because there have been some poll-rigging by the right-wing coalition during the elections in April 2006. But more on that in another post.
Berlusconi had some talks with an important personality inside RAI (Angelo Saccà), the public broadcaster, who wasn’t feeling at ease there and wanted to start his own production company and cooperate with a production project. A right-wing politician, mr. Urbani, advises him to have “a man of Berlusconi’s” in there, and the whole thing begins: he is asked to have a few young actresses star in some fiction, one of which is a relative of an unknown left-wing senator who “might come in handy make the government topple”.
Indeed, another senator, Pietro Fuda, who was in Berlusconi’s party at first but then moved to a left-wing party, was reported to have said that “his heart keeps beating to the right[-wing side of the Parliament], even though today he is forced to stay on the left and that anyway, should they touch [Berlusconi’s] interests and things, [Berlusconi] can feel safe: [I] will help him in Parliament”.
This is what the Italian political scene is like: a bunch of people caring for their own interests and nothing else; people who claim that the public spending has to be cut and impose taxes on the populace while they make in a month what most people barely make in a year or two. It only takes 31 months in Parliament to obtain a fat life annuity: that is two years and seven months. More on the public spending in another post.
Going back to the sale and purchase of votes, the surreal Italian way appears: not only the Police has got recordings of Berlusconi’s calls made through the cell phone of one of his bodyguards where he actively tries to bribe for votes; not only a left-wing senator elected in Australia (Nino Randazzo) whom he had been trying to bribe by suggesting he’d be the Secretary of State in his next government reported it all; not only there have been open talks of overthrowing the current majority (which had been claimed as illegal because of alleged left-wing elctoral intrigues, the only case in the world where a then-minority coalition would have managed to do it without being able to control the media and the whole electoral system, are you beginning to see the pattern?), but the number one suspected has the courage to say that his privacy has been threatened.
And not only that, but he also goes to the Secretary of Justice, mr. Clemente Mastella (leader of a left-centre-right-wherever-it’s-more-convenient-to-be-in-a-given-moment party) to formally complain about it, and what the Secretary say? That he is right, that this phone tapping is getting out of hand and people are sick of it. Actually, the only people who are sick of phone tapping are those who have something to hide, which by no surprise includes most, if not all, the political chaste. After all, mr. Mastella is indicted himself for bribery and for this reason tried and succeeded in having the prosecutor who was investigating on him to be removed from his job.
In addition to the “privacy threat”, mr. Berlusconi saw it fit to pour some more gasoline on the constant fire of Italian politics, by claiming once again that there is a communist conspiracy about him, that the judges are soviet red, and a plethora of other less than elegant claims.
But then again, what can you expect from somebody who, on the very first day of European presidency (thankfully, states take turns every six months so we didn’t have time to do many long-term pan-European damages), responded this way to a German Member of the European Parliament (mr. Schultz) who had inquired him about the conflict of interest he was having benefits from: “A friend of mine is making a film about Nazi concentration camps; I shall suggest you to star as a kapo”. You can read the whole story about it on the BBC website. Great way to start the Italian semester of presidency, wasn’t it?