Five Surprising Similarities Between Berlusconi and Mussolini
Five worrisome coincidences between the current Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi and the early 20th century dictator, Benito Mussolini, in their visions of democracy.
Silvio Berlusconi has just been elected for the third time to govern Italy. This powerful media owner’s history shows some worrying similarities with fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. Berlusconi has even been quoted as saying that Mussolini “killed nobody”, but “confined” people to “vacations”.
Mussolini: In 1925, three years after he came to power, he had decreed that the “president of the counsel” (himself) is to become the “head of state, prime minister and secretary”. Since then, his control of power depends solely on the king: Only the king can nominate him or revoke his power.
Berlusconi: During his first term, he attempted to modify the Italian Constitution, which after World War II was rewritten to limit the Executive Branch’s power. Additionally, it prevents other government officials from exploiting emergency situations. Berlusconi tried to change the documents that rule a prime minister cannot fire its ministers nor dissolve the Parliament, and the ability of minority parties to throw out the government if they give their distrust vote.
Berlusconi: 1994-1995, 2001-2006 and 2008- Current (Berlusconi has served as Italy’s Prime Minister the longest, since World War II.)
Suffocating the Minorities
Mussolini: In 1923 he instituted an election law to that provides a “bonus” to majority parties. This allows him to consolidate its power, thereby harming the representation of minorities.
Berlusconi: In 2005, he proposed a bill similar to that of Mussolini’s 1923 law.
Mussolini: In 1925, he introduces the “press law,” which outlaws all newspapers and magazines that don’t have a lawyer loyal to the government. On November 5, he had placed all members press under the possibility of being censored.
Berlusconi: As an owner of 90% of TV stations, radio, graphic media and advertising, Berlusconi is the “czar” of the Italian media. Under his government, writers’ have been placed in jail, editors fired and TV programs taken off the air… all for having criticized him. The Italian police raid newspaper offices and reporters’ homes, doing so in the name of fighting terrorism.
Mussolini: The “March on Rome” (1921) was conducted by thugs of the Fascist Party, in the name of Mussolini’s coup d’etat.
Berlusconi: In January, he threatned to emplace millions of his followers on the streets of Rome if immediate elections were not to be held, after a Parliamentary distrust vote against then prime minister Romano Prodi. Postponing of elections would have harmed his chances for the position, as it would have given time for the recently launched Democratic Party, designed to be a mainstream centrist party capable of taking on Berlusconi’s “Forza Italia”, to gear up for the fight.
Perhaps this Prime Minister, with such a “popularity” that he has been “elected” for three terms, does have a positive motive. What if this is simply for the good of Italy’s citizens, but they just don’t realize it yet? With history to serve as a lesson, the Italians have no option to take this situation lightly. While Silvio Berlusconi’s true intentions are only fully known to those intimate to him, who’s to tell what other measures will be taken next?