Berlusconi shifts Italy to the hard right

Since coming back into power in Italy, Silvio Berlusconi’s most high-profile move has been to indulge in some sexist comments about Spain’s majority-women government.

I’ve seen some speculation about the impact of his election on LGBT rights, as well, but in today’s Guardian John Hooper sets out some more evidence of the changing political landscape in Italy.

One ray of sunshine: apparently Italy is likely to see its slot on the Commission* shift from justice (you may remember the furore over Italy’s decision to nominate a man who called homosexuality a sin to the post) to transport. Although that’s good news for Europeans as a whole, the Italian LGBT community will be less than thrilled with Berlusconi’s comment: “It’s much better for us to be concerned with infrastructure than homosexuality.”

Ever since he entered politics, Berlusconi and his friends have been pushing back the boundaries of the say-able. Before the election, one of his candidates declared he had “never repudiated fascism”. Berlusconi did not drop him and the candidate was elected. Berlusconi himself was restrained in the campaign (well, apart from calling his middle-aged women followers “the menopause section” and advising a young woman looking for a job to marry his millionaire son instead). But his victory two weeks ago has freed him to speak his mind.

An openly fascist candidate. Who calls his female supporters the “menopause section (and yet they vote for him?!!) Could it get worse? Well, let’s bring Vladimir Putin into the equation and see!

His first move after the vote was to invite his old friend Vladimir Putin to his villa on Sardinia where he laid on a show with scantily clad dancing girls. At a press conference the next day, a Russian reporter rashly asked her president about his alleged relationship with a young gymnast. As Putin scowlingly complained of journalists with “snotty noses and erotic fantasies” invading his privacy, his chum drove home the message by pretending to fire a sub-machine gun at the questioner. It reduced her to tears.

*Each member state gets to put forward a candidate for a post as Commissioner at the European Commission, which is meant to function as the civil service of the European Parliament but also sets the political agenda, putting forward legislation to be voted on by the Parliament.

Photo by Alessio85, shared under a Creative Commons license