|Italian Elections 2001|
|| 16-05-2001, 20:07 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Italy , Foreign media, Elections|
One of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group’s regular election observers was in Italy for the general election on 13th May, 2001. He saw no evidence of fraud and no substantial allegations of it were made. This election saw efforts by the foreign media to influence the outcome.
The media versus democracy?
One of the British Helsinki Human Rights Group’s regular election observers was in Italy for the general election on 13th May, 2001. There was widespread chaos towards the close of the poll, as many more eligible voters appeared at polling stations than had been expected by the officials of the Ministry of the Interior. Despite this, he saw no evidence of fraud and no substantial allegations of it were made. The election was also controversial because of efforts by the foreign media to influence the outcome. Not since 1948, when the young CIA strained every muscle to prevent a Communist victory at the polls, had Italian voters been subject to so much pressure from abroad to discourage them from voting for a change of regime, in this case from a government led by the reform-Communists to one from the centre-right. Below, the Group’s rapporteur considers the role of the media as the main issue of the Italian elections.
Italy versus the World, or at least its media
“I don’t think we’re arrogant. We’re a Marxist-style collective really – we’re the most pro-free market collective ever invented. Globalisation is here to stay and we are the house magazine of globalisation.”
Bill Emmott, Editor in chief of The Economist and critic of Silvio Berlusconi
On 13th May 2001, Italy held elections to both houses of parliament and to several large municipalities. The election represented a considerable advance in the quality of Italian democracy, to the extent that two large multi-party blocs, each with its own clearly designated candidate for prime minister and clearly defined political programme, confronted one another. This was an improvement on the old system, where the voters voted but found that leadership and policy of the national government was decided behind closed doors after the election, and where the leader was frequently changed in the middle of a parliamentary term. Indeed, the victory of the Berlusconi coalition in these elections can be seen as a first in Italian democracy, to the extent that it is the first time that one political government has been thrown out at an election and replaced by a political government of the opposite political complexion. (The 1994 and 1996 elections, which brought to power, respectively, a right-wing and a left-wing government, came after periods of “technical” government.)
Despite these democratic advances, the world’s media made extraordinary efforts to present the election as the beginning of the end of Italian democracy. Indeed, CNN and other international media over-egged the pudding by repeatedly reported Italy was heading for its 58th since 1945, while omitting to comment on the fact that Italian politics has shown a marked increase in stability since electoral reform promoted a largely first-past-the-post electoral system after Silvio Berlusconi won the 1994 general election. The media campaign alleging that Italian democracy was in danger was launched simultaneously in various high-profile if little-read journals in Britain, France and the United States against the leader of the Italian right, Silvio Berlusconi. Mr. Berlusconi may be by far and away Italy’s leading media magnate but on a global scale he was definitely outgunned by the united international media onslaught. Given these foreign television news stations’ and newspapers’ ability to overlook or even endorse candidates in other countries accused of worse crimes than Mr. Berlusconi, their vociferous attacks on him raised serious doubt about the objectivity of these organs.
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