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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2704

A Colourful Politician to Dismantle the Castle of Boredom – Silvio Berlusconi

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…..

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, is a rare politician who keeps boredom at bay, exactly like the way he fought off corruption charges against him on regular basis – by torrents of mildly offensive outbursts - something that his critics classify as planetary gaffes.

Mr Berlusconi, the richest man in Italy, is a self-made billionaire who owns popular television channels in Italy and the world-famous AC Milan football club; he has everything at his disposal to challenge his political enemies in a formidable way. His rivals envy his wealth and the influence that it inevitably brings in, while Mr Berlusconi on his part, makes no attempt to appear to be poorer than he really is, as most of the contemporary liberal-minded politicians across the globe would do, in portraying themselves as folks who hail from invented poorer backgrounds.

For some, Mr Berlusconi is a controversial figure and for his loyal supporters he is just an outspoken human being. Mr Berlusconi is charming and the very trait did wonders for him when he was testing his commercial instincts in the 1960’s that in turn propelled him into the club of the wealthiest in the world from relatively modest background, after a few decades.

The wrinkle-free politician at the age of 72 has always been a source of fun. Recently, when he turned to a woman doctor and said, "He didn’t mind being resuscitated by her," his critics went ballistic by serializing a chain of famous quips made by Mr Berlusconi to prepare a charge sheet against the colourful figure of Italian politics – for tarnishing the country’s image.

The ever-present tussle between the left wing critics and Berlusconi loyalists came to a head in step with the seismic waves that caused havoc in central Italy, with yet another quip made by the prime minister: Mr Berlusconi said that the earthquake victims who were languishing inside camps must consider as if they were on a camping holiday. Having realized the sensitivity of the remark, he quickly defended it on the grounds of raising the spirits of the nation; unfortunately, it didn’t cut any ice with the Italian public on this occasion and he offered his private mansion to the victims of the disaster to dampen down the hullabaloo.

Mr Berlusconi has always been an admirer of beautiful women – of Italian descent, of course. He once extended his business acumen in New York by asking the potential investors to relocate themselves in Italy to work with better-looking Italian secretaries rather than their American counterparts. He came in for scathing criticism by feminists across the Atlantic pool, for being sexist – whatever that means. However, if they thought that they silenced the Italian, they were to be disappointed; Mr Berlusconi later on broke his silence by referring to his own negotiating skills with the female Finnish Prime Minister over a certain bilateral issue: "I dusted off my playboy charms to win her over," said Mr Berlusconi while punching in the iron curtain of protocol.

The Italian Prime Minister caused some furore on home front too. For instance, when he publicly told Mara Carfagna, a men’s-magazine model, that he would marry her unless he were already married, Mrs Berlusconi found it neither funny nor mischievous; the latter demanded a public apology in the form of a newspaper advertisement – and got one.

Mr Berlusconi has been referring to the phenomenon of tanning recently, much to the dismay of political correct media. He referred to Obama’s skin colour twice and the radar of the former picked it up and made a big fuss over the same. The Italian prime minister branded those who picked on him by paying attention to trivia as imbeciles without a sense of humour. He made the same remark at a Black priest and a black volunteer who were attending the victims of the Italian earthquake – and again stirring up a political storm. Mr Berlusconi protested his innocence against the charge of racism, saying he didn’t mean to offend anyone.

The most notable incident involving the care-free life of the prime minister that struck the Italians was the way he was at Her Majesty’s Dis(Pleasure) during the last phase of G-20 Summit. When Mr Berlusconi shouted at President Obama like a tenor, the Queen Elizabeth apparently was compelled to question the need to shout at the president – and at that pitch. When rival media played it out in Italy, the prime minister saw it as a storm in a cappuccino cup!

If critics think that the downfall of this flamboyant politician will be brought about by the storm of gaffes, they get it spectacularly wrong. Mr Berlusconi has been voted in three times by the Italians and even if they ditch him at the next round, it will be more to do with the economic woes than his sharp tongue. Even if he comes to that end, he is seasoned enough to make a triumphant comeback.

In a world of politicians who go by the unwritten code of political correctness, Mr Berlusconi is a misfit indeed. However, those who believe that the role of a politician is much more than that of an intellectual, Mr Berlusconi is an inspirational piece who is flexible enough to fit into any global jigsaw.

The quips that he has been making in the past few years may be his way of punctuating the monotony of political spectrum, something other politicians try to do by making impressive speeches – most probably written by professionals while stuffing with sound bites for the sake of it; in this context, as far as Mr Berlusconi is concerned, being unique is not synonymous with being offensive or insensitive.

I am sure the Italians are laid back enough to live with Berlusconi activities and ready to forgive him for any misdemeanours and make him a comeback kid – may be for the fourth time. Mr Berlusconi should not use his age and fitted pace-maker to make excuses and run away while leaving his fans in the lurch.

- Asian Tribune -

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