The last laugh

The results of Italy’s national elections inflicted a resounding defeat on the political status quo that rallied its forces in a bid to politically destroy former right-wing Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Meanwhile, the stunning performance of the anti-establishment party led by comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, which went on to garner more than 25 percent of the national vote, added to the misery of those who threw their weight behind technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti, who received just over 10 percent.

To be sure, there can be no comparison between Italy’s establishment, whose players range from the Vatican to global-scale industrialists, and that of Greece, which is shallow and spineless. This fact alone shows the extent of the Italian voters’ political rebellion against the policies of austerity.

Berlusconi’s political comeback – which is what this is really all about – following his near-total moral humiliation, was to a large degree thanks to his head-on collision with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Berlusconi has managed to tilt the Italian right back into good-old patriotic territory on the basis of Italian opposition to Germany which goes back to the time of the Roman Empire.

Recent political developments in Italy could serve as a guide for other right-wing parties on the continent that reject or are simply put off by Germany’s dominant role in the eurozone’s financial crisis. We should not be surprised to see certain parties on the right and the left move closer to the Anglo-Saxon model in a bid to tackle the crisis or, in fact, to see a clearer North-South division emerge inside the euro area.

Berlusconi and Grillo may indeed be “clowns” – as Merkel’s Social Democratic rival in Germany’s upcoming election, Peer Steinbrueck, said yesterday – but Italian voters have expressed their preference for those jesters of politics to the pet politicians of the European establishment.

Some may lash at the immature Italians, but our representative democracy does not distinguish between intelligent and unintelligent citizens. Politics is not just about making the “right choices,” as it were. Politics cannot be reduced to test-tube logic. The key goal should be to convince citizens on the need to take those measures and win their support. And this is exactly where Monti failed to deliver.

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