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Potential kingmaker

Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

For the past four years, Italy has been on the receiving end of wave after wave of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. During this period, EU leaders believed that Silvio Berlusconi’s political career had been consigned to history. Troubled by endless scandals, the former Italian prime minister was obliged by his own party, Forza Italia, to resign.

Although his latest conviction for tax fraud means he is banned from holding public office, Berlusconi, 81, has re-emerged with a bang, as if resurrected from the ashes. In the run-up to Italy’s March 4 elections, this tainted tycoon is believed to be a potential kingmaker. Berlusconi, however, does not command the support he enjoyed in his heyday. Latest polls show that his party has been polling at about 15 per cent, almost half of what it used to. But as things stand, he is on course to drive the right-wing coalition that includes it and the hardline Northern League to victory.

To add insult to injury, Berlusconi has also flourished as a result of Italy’s political fragmentation and chronic economic stagnation. That he has been able to step back into the frame reflects a broad failure by Matteo Renzi and Paolo Gentiloni to tackle the migration crisis first and foremost and to deliver economic prosperity.

In all of this, however, Italy is a victim of its own politicians (how I hate this word). It is also a victim of failures at the EU level.

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