At this point, politicians and pundits are left arguing over the number of people that were there, Berlusconi claiming there were a million, and the police in Rome that there were only 150,000 (ehm, welcome to Italy.) The left is saying that people were paid as much as 130 euros by unemployment firms to attend the rally, in addition to the free buses that were provided from around the country.
My two cents:
1. The problem with Berlusconi is not that he is conservative. The problem is that he is letting Italy rot while he reaps huge benefits, he is centralizing power and limiting freedoms, and is just overall corrupt. The biggest rally against the Prime Minister was called "No-Berlusconi Day," because it was not motivated by any political ideology, but just contempt for this individual person.
So, when he responds that all his critics are "communists," not only is it a false accusation, but irrelevant. Conservative Italians have just as much reason not to like him as liberal ones (or actual communists). The fact is that it is not a politically-motivated debate, it is personal.
2. The opposition to Berlusconi plays right into his hands. I can't understand why Italians think that to oppose a right-wing candidate, you must oppose it with far-left ideas. To show that people did not support the rally, they flew red flags on the streets where the parade marched. In anti-government rallies, all you see are communist flags. How stupid! Talk about making it easy for him to label the opposition communist.
Come on people, haven't you learned anything in history class? Communism would never work in Italy (take away a work holiday and then we'll see a real revolution). All this does is make a reasonable solution impossible, because, as usual, everybody is left bickering like 8-year-olds in a schoolyard. Why not criticize a problem for what it is and propose rational solutions instead of trying to fight fire with fire, leaving everyone burned.
3. People often make the comparison between Berlusconi and Bush, which I don't think fits. Being American, it is admittedly difficult to criticize after having a president ruin so much, however the situations don't correspond well. While Bush was ruining the world, he was doing what he thought was right, whether or not it actually was.
He was acting in what he and his administration perceived as America's best interest, while Berlusconi is not doing anything of the sort. Sure, I won't deny that private interests benefited from Bush's policies, but they weren't the motivating factor like they are for Berlusconi.
Whew! I feel better. Feel free to comment and let me know what you think.