The three-day founding congress, with about 6,000 delegates gathered in Rome to baptize the Il Popolo della Libertà (People of Freedom) party, the new conservative party which is a merger of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the rightwing Alleanza Nazionale, is over. It’s an important event, but not an absolute novelty, since the two parties ran together and won under the PDL label in last year’s general election. In other words, the new party was already a fait accompli, even though its “official baptism” has certainly marked another highly important step for both the conservative coalition (though only two of the three main groups on the right are included in the PDL) and the Italian political system as a whole. However, the point is that the People of Freedom is expected to make the Italians a stronger force in the European Parliament’s largest party grouping—the conservative EPP-ED—after the next European elections (the latest opinion polls gave the new party a 44 per cent share of the national vote).
As it was widely predicted, however, the event sounded like an unending and ecstatic hymn of praise to the Cavaliere, elected by acclamation as the first president of the new party, which provoked much annoyance among the opponents, in Italy and outside, who rant about the supposed “cult of personality” that surrounds Silvio Berlusconi. What they seem to forget is the messianic cult that surrounds “their” Barack Obama, but it doesn’t really matter, because their proverbial ability to opportunistically exploit this kind of charges (ad usum delphini, of course) is well known.
But, perhaps, what Berlusconi’s fiercest opponents most disliked was this passage of his conclusion speech: “The constitution must be enriched and revitalised ... The powers of the prime minister are almost non-existent ... The country needs to be governed.” Which is the plain truth, as they themselves well know. He also said that he would seek the support of the center left opposition in changing the constitution—which is a mere illusion, and he knows it—but would go alone if it did not co-operate. If I should express my candid opinion I should say “better alone than in bad company,” or in a company that can kill you.