The forthcoming weekend will be the one that defines the political future of Italy; the most crucial elections of the nation's recent history are going to take place. However, the importance of these elections is not predicated on the premise of having a political party to govern; this time an immense debt, drastic alterations in Italian social policy, the disappointment of society in the political system, and a strong focus on fiscal stability are to determine the future of Italy.
In addition to the strong sociopolitical and economic factors that will influence the election, the main protagonist during this process is none other than the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Most political analysts considered his resignation and the rise of the technocrat Mario Monti to be his swan song. Nevertheless, Berlusconi not only managed to re-enter the political arena for his sixth candidacy but has managed to make himself a tough competitor for the other candidates to deal with.
Berlusconi has been criticized for his political choices, the way he implemented his policies, and most of all, his legal troubles with the Italian courts. However, both his loyal supporters and his sworn enemies accept the fact that his communication skills and capacity to reshape public opinion are beyond compare.
The fundamental points of his policy can be divided into three thematic pillars: the reprioritization of the reforms that Monti imposed on the public sector, especially in the field of taxation; the blocking of so-called "Merkelian" austerity throughout the Euro Zone; and finally, boosting the national economy. It should be underscored here that the political coalition that supports Berlusconi has agreed to assist him only if he leads the Ministry of Finance and not the government.
Berlusconi started embarking on emotive ranting and on munificent declarations, not only to cater to the most bigoted members of his party, but also to attract the Italians who have been crippled by austerity measures. In keeping with the above, il cavaliere disclosed his biggest goal: abolishing the real estate tax and reimbursing citizens who have paid it. Considering that the vast majority of Italians own their own houses and that the national budget is almost certainly incapable of supporting such initiatives, the fiscal stability of Italy is very much at stake.
Certain segments of society have accused Berlusconi of being blissfully unaware of reality, and the markets responded with a sea of red. Additionally, his political opponents have underlined the fact that impracticable and non-implementable promises are elements of virulent political approaches and that demagogy in times of sociopolitical instability is extremely dangerous.
Others have accused him of diplomatic isolation, as seen in his insistence on presenting his resignation as the consequence of external pressures from Germany. Nevertheless, there were international voices supporting Berlusconi such as that of British Prime Minister David Cameron as an antidote to the false orientation that Europe is pursuing via fiscal reform, voices that appear to increase his influence within Italy.
At this point, we cannot perceive who is going to be the final winner. Italian society is frustrated, disappointed and angry. Abstention from the elections is expected to skyrocket, an issue which further complicates matters. Furthermore, provided that new alliances and political cultures can be expected to rise, the result is not only going to define the future of the country but also the future of the European Union. We will just have to wait for a week; then we can all draw our own conclusions.