Saturday, March 6, 2010

Two more reasons to be worried about Italy

There is not much to be optimistic about in the current state of Italian affairs. Beneath the surface of Italy's beauty and historical wonders lies a divided society led by an increasingly fascist-leaning government. Two recent actions have only further shown this and, frankly, scare me.

1. Berlusconi's government has created rules that don't allow political talk shows to be shown on Rai during prime time slots. Mediaset, the other giant television network, is free to do what it would like. So, let's put two and two together here: Berlusconi owns Mediaset, and Rai is supposedly public (Italians pay a tax that funds Rai).

This is a very serious restriction on the freedom of press. These new rules will be affecting political talk shows that are often critical of Berlusconi, who, if you don't know by now, has a lot to be critical of, while talk shows on Mediaset are free to blow his horn.

Imagine if the British government said that the BBC couldn't talk politics, but Sky could. Imagine if the American government said NBC had to remove it's political shows, but Fox could do what it wants (although NBC is not public). It would be war. Why is it not war in Italy?

2. The government is either bypassing or changing a law so that the right-wing (PDL) candidate for the governor of Lazio can run, despite the fact that he missed the deadline for declaring his candidacy. Ok, bear with me here: to be a candidate for governor of Lazio, one must submit a petition by a certain date to be considered. I think this is pretty standard for elections around the world, if not in the details, in theory. However, the PDL (Popolo della Libertà) did not submit their petition on time. Now, the government is searching for a way to change the law, or "interpret" the law more vaguely to let it slide.

Granted, this is a somewhat strange event, which would leave many voters without a candidate, and basically give the election to the left-wing Partito Democratico (PD), but maybe the PDL should have thought about that before waiting until the last minute. They had over a month to submit the petition. If I didn't submit a research paper to my university professor, they gave me an F, they didn't change the rules just for me. Why should the rules be changed in this case?

Can you imagine if it would have been the PD who made the mistake? How hard would the government have tried to allow them to run?

These two events are just the latest that seem to be taking Italy back to the 1930s. Italians will know that they waited too long when the political assassinations begin...

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