Silvio Berlusconi: ten more questions

Geoff Andrews
1 June 2009

Dear Signor Berlusconi,

It is now nearly three weeks since La Repubblica published its list of ten questions in connection with your relationship to Noemi Letizia. You have chosen not to answer their questions, claiming that the newspaper's initiative was part of a campaign organised by the left. In the weeks since, you have accused La Repubblica of orchestrating a left-wing plot that has extended to the international press, drawing in the Times and the Economist, amongst others. In this period you have also described the Italian parliament as "useless" and judges as being fuelled by "hatred" and "jealousy". 

Among openDemocracy's articles on Italy's politics:

Sarah Pozzoli & Mario Rossi, "The fall and rise of Silvio Berlusconi" (21 April 2005)

Sarah Pozzoli, "Who rules Italy?" (23 June 2005)

Marco Niada, "Italy's tragic democracy" (23 August 2005)

Marco Brazzoduro, "Italy's choice: risk from Roma vs Roma at risk" (24 June 2008)

It is now only days before the European elections to be held across the European Union's member-states on 4-7 June 2009, with Italy's on 6-7 June; these will be followed by Italy's hosting of the G8 summit in L'Aquila on 8-10 July. Your response has once again raised questions of wider public interest over your performance as Italian prime minister. I would like to put these further ten questions to you now. 

1) You have made many criticisms of the role of the press in this case, despite the fact that Il Giornale (a paper owned by your family), as well as other newspapers, have regularly defended your conduct. Few prime ministers have that privilege, yet you persist in saying that the press is against you. What is your understanding, then, of a free press? For example, would you put any conditions on criticisms the press may make of the prime minister?

2) You accused La Repubblica of "exploiting private matters for political ends". Yet, the "public" and "private" boundaries often overlap in your political life, notably through your own vast private ownership of daily newspapers and several TV stations, while you simultaneously wield political power. You agreed to resolve this "conflict of interests" within 100 days of taking office, yet nothing has been done. There are wide criticisms of this situation throughout Europe. Why have you not resolved this "conflict of interests" and do you not think it presents a problem for Italian democracy?

3) On 21 May 2009, you described the Italian parliament as "useless", suggesting that only 100 MPs were needed to get the work done. At the same time, you claim that the Italian people are "with you". Is your view, then, that the Italian electorate would happily give you more power to "get things done" more efficiently?

4) You have compared the role of government to that of a private company, and contrasted legislators unfavourably with entrepreneurs. Do you understand the difference between being a successful salesman and a successful statesman?

5) On 19 May, an Italian court ruled that you had bribed your British lawyer, David Mills, by paying $600,000 to give false testimony on your behalf. Mills was convicted in February, though you have been protected by parliamentary-immunity legislation passed by your government. You have said that you will be making a statement to parliament on the matter "as soon as you have time", but not before the European elections. Why is that and when will the statement be made?

6) In addition to your criticisms of the Italian parliament, you regularly attack Italian judges for their bias and "insanity". You have recently faced criticism for undermining constitutional procedures, leading to conflict with the president of the Italian republic, Giorgio Napolitano, most recently in the right-to-die case of Eluana Englaro. It has been claimed that you yourself have high aspirations to succeed Napolitano. Can you confirm your intention to become president of the republic and what would you bring to the role?

7) In July 2009 you will be hosting a G8 summit in L'Aquila. At previous summits and international gatherings of world leaders, you have had some communication problems with some of your peers. Do you envisage any more this year?

8) What, in your view, are your greatest achievements as Italian prime minister?

9) During the last few weeks you have denied being directly involved in the selection of TV showgirls as parliamentary candidates for your party, even though your own newspaper Il Giornale has admitted as much. Can you clarify whether you have or you have not?

10) Finally, why does Noemi Letizia, your 18-year-old friend in Naples, call you "Papi"?

Yours sincerely,

Geoff Andrews

Geoff Andrews is staff tutor in politics at the Open University. He is the author of Not a Normal Country: Italy After Berlusconi (Pluto, 2005), published in Italian as Un Paese Anormale (effepilibri, 2007); and of The Slow Food Story: Politics and Pleasure (Pluto Press / McGill-Queen's, 2008). Geoff Andrews is also an associate editor of Soundings. His website is here

Among Geoff Andrews's articles on openDemocracy:

"The life and death of Pier Paolo Pasolini" (November 2005)

"Italy's election: no laughing matter" (1 February 2006)

"Berlusconi's bitter legacy" (29 March 2006)

"In search of a normal country" (6 April 2006)

"Italy between fear and hope" (11 April 2006)

"Romano Prodi's fragile centre" (27 February 2007)

"Walter Veltroni: Italy's man for all seasons" (3 July 2007)

"Italy: another false dawn" (22 October 2007)

"Italy's governing disorder" (31 January 2008)

"Italy: the ungovernable nation" (11 April 2008)

"Italy's hour of darkness" (17 April 2008)

"Roberto Saviano: an Italian dissident" (22 October 2008)

"Italy's creeping fascism" (19 February 2009)

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