Germany may inadvertently be opening a door for Berlusconi to make a political comeback.
Polls cited in the Financial Times show growing anti-German sentiment in Italy:
83 per cent [of Italians are] saying Germany’s influence in the EU is “too strong”, up from 53 per cent in October 2011. In addition, 74 per cent of Italians feel that Germany is showing “not enough” solidarity with the rest of the eurozone.
Berlusconi, who enjoys a “bad boy” reputation in Italian politics, is already playing on this sentiment in his quest to regain the power he lost in part due to German and EU pressure last year.
This quest may be helped along by comments from politicians like German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. The Financial Times reports an aggravated Westerwelle declaring:
One thing we will not accept—that Germany should be made the target of a populist election campaign. Neither Germany nor Europe are the cause of the current difficulties in Italy.
Italians do not like being told what to do, and remarks like Westerwelle’s strike Italians as those of a threatening bully. If Germany becomes the main issue in Italian politics, Berlusconi might just be able to pull off a win—or barring that, he could get enough seats in parliament to ensure that the next government is weak and ineffective.
The old man is out for revenge and wants to get back into a job where the lawsuits and criminal proceedings against him will once again be put on hold. The odds still seem stacked against him, but Berlusconi remains one of Europe’s most skillful and clever politicians. We will be following the Italian campaign with great interest.