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Berlusconi enjoys high ratings but remains hugely controversial

MiraclebJacopo Barigazzi writes a very positive account of the Italian PM's first 100 days back in office for the latest edition of Newsweek:

"In his first 100 days in office, Silvio Berlusconi may have done the impossible: to a degree unprecedented in modern Italian history, he asserted control over this seemingly ungovernable nation. The opposition parties are mired in squabbling, and Berlusconi, now prime minister for the third time since 1994, has an approval rating of 55 percent—higher than Britain's Gordon Brown, France's Nicolas Sarkozy or Spain's José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero."

At the heart of Mr Barigazzi's positive piece is an account of the successful attempts by the Berlusconi administration to end the crisis in Naples where rubbish has been piling up in the streets for a number of months.

But if Barigazzi focuses on Berlusconi's popularity, the Italian leader also remains very controversial:

  • He has put Italian troops on to the streets in order to control crime and as part of a crackdown on unpopular Gypsy communities.  The Guardian has noted the crackdown and the belief that 50,000 Romanian Gypsies are partly responsible for increased crime.  The move has united left and right in concern.  The Guardian's Seumas Milne has written of "the shame of Europe" and EU Referendum's Richard North.  Richard North recently blogged:  "Comparisons are now being made between this government's action and the census of Jews carried out by Benito Mussolin in 1938, the beginning of a process that put many of them in concentration camps. The Italian government, of course, denies any such connection, but its actions display a rooted determination to clear out what are clearly considered unwelcome "guests"."
  • His government was virtually alone in siding with Russia in its recent conflict with Georgia.
  • And, as noted by Barigazzi, one of his first acts in office was the passage of a bill that granted him and other top ministers immunity from prosecution so long as they are in office.


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