State of Democratic Emergency!

Or should that be a undemocratic state of emergency?

In past AFOE threads, we’ve been discussing the Italian elections, as you no doubt saw. One thing that came up is the possibility that Silvio Berlusconi might not behave himself in the event that he looks like losing. This is after all a man who has no compunction about changing the law to avoid being prosecuted, associating with barely concealed mafiosi, and generally flouting the principles of the Italian constitution. It’s by no means impossible that, losing power and immunity, he might end up in jail. Can he really be trusted, then, not to try to rig the ballot and to go away if he loses?

This week’s events have lent much point to this discussion. Berlusconi’s behaviour has become a little odd, to say the least. After walking out of a TV discussion, he proceeded to harangue the members of Confindustria for making up all Italy’s economic problems as part of (you guessed it) a communist plot, and finished up by announcing that a “state of democratic emergency” existed after a minor fracas broke out near one of his speeches.

Worryingly, he seems to be assembling the ideological foundations of anti-democracy; he argues that there is a plot by secret communists who incorporate the judiciary, the procuracy, the media and even the top executives of Italian industry, and that the state is in danger from a violent opposition movement aligned with them. They are also part of the communist conspiracy. Perhaps he will soon discover that they are also terrorists.

Is this not something like the arguments of Carl Schmitt’s Ausnahmezustand? To deal with these violent communists who are endangering democracy and the rule of law, presumably, democracy and law must be suspended. If the election is close, I think there is a small but non-trivial chance that he will try to announce that, “to restore order”, the elections will be “suspended” or some such. Fortunately, any such action would have seismic economic and political consequences, national bankruptcy being the most immediate, which ought to deter the people he would need to carry with him from supporting such a move.

Yes, there is a “state of democratic emergency” in Italy. I don’t think it’s too wild to say that Silvio Berlusconi is it.

4 thoughts on “State of Democratic Emergency!

  1. How far would he be able to go before international observers apply pressure of some sort?

  2. Well Berlusconi has no institutional decency at all, but suggesting a possible coup you are getting a bit too pessimistic here. There is no history of election rigging in Italy, and results are never been questioned in any election since the Republic was founded.
    President Ciampi and the Constitutional Court, that would have the last word in case of contested results, are no Berlusconi pawns. He talked tough like this in 1996, then lost a close election and went quietly. Hopefully this is what will happen again.