Citizen Kane loses the Italian elections

It looks as if the center-left has pulled out a razor-thin victory, in the face of a governing party that controlled all the television networks.

Despite control of all seven television networks in Italy (the six private ones he owns plus the government-operated one he controls) and an electoral system rigged in his party’s favor at the last minute, Silvio Berlusconi seems to have lost the Italian elections, though the rigging may have given his coalition a narrow margin in the Senate, which would make it impossible for the center-left opposition behind Romano Prodi to form a government. (The Senate result will depend on the six seats elected by Italians overseas.)

If Prodi does manage to get into office, he’d be well advised to put off action on the economic questions which will divide his coalition and concentrate on breaking up Berlusconi’s media empire, which ought to be something every thinking Italian can agree on. With any luck, a few months with Berlusconi out of power will give the Milanese magistrates breathing room to finally send him away for the crooked political deals that gained him that empire in the first place.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

One thought on “Citizen Kane loses the Italian elections”

  1. Dear Prof Kleiman
    Comments you allow comments !!! (sorry I just noticed). I have long loved your blog and been eager to comment.
    Actually the Italian center right is not only evil but incompetent and they totally messed up rigging the electoral law. They wrote a law so that their victory of 2001 would have been even bigger under the new rules. However, the quirks of the law helped the center left this time.
    Quirk 1 for the camera is the "premio di maggioranza" or prize for coming in first. Seats are allocated proportionally, then, to avoid weak majorities, the largest political alliance gets enough extra seats to have a solid majority. This means that 26,000 more votes for Prodi's alliance imply a solid majority in the lower house and make it impossible for Berlusconi to hold on by convincing habitual turncoats to turn their coats again. The reliably unrealiable U.D.Eur.-populariparty has 10 deputies Prodi has well over 20 to spare).
    The senate is supposed to represent the 15 regions not just the individual voters (a USA fixation is a Berlusconi feature). Nothing absurd like the US senate but the winners prize is allocated region by region. Thus it is possible for one alliance to get an absolute majority of the votes and another to get a majority of the Senators (this was explained to Italian TV viewers as being like the US electoral college). In fact, the center right got an absolute majority of votes for Senators cast by Italian resident Italians, but won only one more seat than the center left.
    Hmmm so how did the center right get more votes for Senators and fewer for deputies. In Italy people aged 18 through 24 vote only for the lower house. Only people 25 and older can vote for the Senate. This is really weird, but it is not a new fiddle but rather a provision of the constitution in force since 1948.
    What's this about Italian resident Italians ? The really weird and totally novel provision of the new electoral law is to provide for representation of "italiani al'estero" (Italians abroad). The definition of Italian abroad is broad. The post-neo-fascist allianza nazionale has been agitating for this for decades, since they assume that Italian Americans (mostly in South American not the USA) who want to vote as Italians are probably raging nationalists.
    On TV, the Italian count is he controls 6 of 6 major channels. Three broadcast channels which he owns and three public channels. The other 3 private channels which he owns are pay channels so they don't count. Of the three public channels the lowly funded third channel is the traditional channel for the left (people were hired for it on recomendation of the Italian communist party from the compromesso storico on). It is known by it's employees as the Indian reservation.
    The bias in the other 5 channels is extreme. At center left headquarters election night, the center left was putting TV on their megascreen to keep their impatient supporters informed. They decided that the least biased channel (the one which did not declare Berlusconi the victor for example) was SKY TV's Italian broadcast. Yes you read that right. The Italian center left was turning to Rupert Murdoch for relatively unbiased coverage. Later they switched to La 7 the channel which was assigned frequencies which Berlusconi just kept on using in the face of court orders (including that of the highest administrative court) until he got parliament to assign it to the channel his most servile journalist (who makes Brit Hume look like the Rude Pundit).

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