Saturday, March 14, 2009

Taciturn Italian Beelzebub

Can you name the two countries in which lawmakers can hold on to their seats for life? Hint: one is shaped like a boot.

Only Italy and Burundi share this outdated and anti-democratic provision. An incident on Italian television last year should prompt a long look at the seven remaining lifetime senators. On a talk show, 90-year-old Giulio Andreotti failed to respond in any way at all to the question "What is the future for our children?"

The influential politician has earned the nickname Beelzebub for his relationship to a certain Italian fraternal organization. In his appearance on Canale 5, which like most Italian TV is owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, he appears to suffer from a stroke or some kind of mental breakdown. After a long and awkward pause, the show cuts to a commercial break, after which Andreotti seems to have recovered. The host apologizes for "technical difficulties," and everyone applauds. For some reason two stunningly beautiful women have appeared at either side of the Senator-for-life.

Is this what passes for serious political discourse in Italy?