The old gentleman’s been talking wildly lately. He recently claimed that he had brought the Brussels post-Covid billions into the country for Italy – which was actually not due to his well-known tendency to lie, but probably to a certain confusion. Nevertheless, the most recent interview by Silvio Berlusconi has stirred up Italy: In a radio interview, the multiple ex-prime minister said in response to a corresponding question that a presidential system would of course be introduced in the event of an election victory, and that would very quickly lead to the resignation of the current incumbent in office Quirinal Palace, President Sergio Mattarella.
But the reaction from the right-wing camp was treacherous. Its exponents were visibly embarrassed by Berlusconi’s interview and reacted as if they had been caught red-handed: He didn’t want “a quarrel with President Berlusconi,” said Ignazio La Russa, a co-founder of Fratelli alongside Meloni. But it is “premature” to bring the issue into the public domain now, which would damage “the common goals” of the right after the September 25 election. A denial looks different. In fact, Berlusconi scored an own goal with his chatter, which is suitable for mobilizing voters in the center and to the left. Opposing camps are currently far behind in the polls. The social-democratic PD and the “Five Star Movement” have produced a great deal of disappointment and must fear a high level of abstention among their clientele. But such an extensive overhaul of the post-war constitution could change that – and help close the ranks of the quarrels in the parties.
Not just because Italy’s 1948 constitution, as the philosopher Paolo Flores d’Arcais recently wrote, always protected Italy from the worst, even in dark times. But also because of the current President. The Sicilian Sergio Mattarella, a personally modest lawyer, a Christian Democrat by birth and brother of a mafia victim, has won a lot of sympathy in the country with his reserved administration since 2015.
At the same time, he skillfully maneuvered the country through two government crises and helped the first five-star government into office in 2018. Unlike in Germany, Italy’s presidents play an important role in government crises. Turning the constitution upside down and chasing Mattarella off at the same time – Berlusconi’s failure has now made the constitutional question an important issue in the election campaign, even in the leadership of the left-wing camp.
So far it has been more in the media. The right-wing will not be allowed to turn Italy into a state like Orbán’s Hungary, explained Enrico Letta, head of the PD in an unusually combative manner. Up to now, he has mainly been busy forging politically delicate alliances and constituency agreements with difficult allies. It is quite possible that there will now be more spotlight on the currently strongest force in the legal camp and its relationship to democracy, namely Meloni’s “Fratelli”. The party leader is trying very hard to establish her “Fratelli” as a new conservative force like many others. On the other hand, FdL emerged as a party of old comrades who used to be organized in the post-fascist formations MSI and Alleanza nazionale (AN) and were dissatisfied with the AN’s democratic turnaround.
Meloni, despite all the oaths of purification, only now acknowledged exactly this history and politics again. When asked if she didn’t want to erase the fascist flame from the party symbol, she insisted that that was out of the question: “I’m proud of the flame.”