Theatrical Berlusconi Ditches His Forza for a 'People's Party'
Popham, Peter, The Independent (London, England)
Silvio Berlusconi has stunned Italian politics by announcing the dissolution of Forza Italia, Italy's largest party, founded by him nearly 14 years ago, and its replacement by "the Party of the People" or "the Party of Freedom".
The media mogul, Italy's richest man and the only Italian prime minister since the war to rule for five consecutive years, told crowds of supporters in Milan on Sunday night: "The time has come. Today a great new party is officially born. The people are ahead of us and they demand it. Cast away hesitation and fear. Enough of wig- wearers and professional politicians. We have collected seven-and-a- half million signatures, and only half of those come from [supporters of] Forza Italia ... There is no reason to wait any longer."
The signatures, he went on, were in favour of "new elections and to elect a new government which will be in harmony with the citizens and know how to govern". He would continue collecting signatures, he said, "all next week because the people in every region want it. We say no to a government that is under the dictatorship of the extreme left." Forza Italia, he went on, "will dissolve. [But] certainly it's a name that has counted."
Of his allies in his "House of Liberties" centre-right coalition, which ruled from 2001 to 2006, he said: "I hope they will all join, none excluded, because we will be the protagonists of democracy and freedom for decades to come."
It was an extraordinary performance by the man whose knack for theatrical surprise has repeatedly allowed him to seize the initiative in a political world divided between some 155 parties - big, small and minuscule - and whose preferred mode of decision- making consists of the stitching of deals between the apparatchiks of different groups. …