Friday, April 14, 2006

Sometimes evil is dumber

In Spaceballs, Rick Moranis has one the best lines ever:
Evil will always triumph because good is dumb.

There is hardly any major political event that cannot be explained by this rule. The recent Italian elections are an exception, if you follow my triple negation.

Berlusconi has been notorious for making the Italian parliament pass laws specifically designed for his own personal interests. I will not give too many examples, because the Italian readers know all about it, and the other readers have no reason to care. Suffices to say that at least one of Berlusconi's TV station operated illegally for a long time (using broadcast frequencies that the law did not allow it to use), and at least twice it was shut down by court order. The court orders were followed by executive orders, and then laws, allowing it to broadcast. The use of the frequencies would have been worth billions of dollars if it had been auctioned. Berlusconi has been under trial for several alleged felonies, most notoriously for accounting fraud and for bribing a judge. In all cases, his strategy was not to defend against the charges, but to delay the trials until the statute of limitation would make the cases disappear. In one infamous episode, he had a law passed that decreased prison terms for accounting fraud so that the statute of limitation would apply earlier to a trial that was almost over.

Given this attitude, it is not surprising that various changes were made to the electoral law, in hopes that they would benefit the right-wing coalition. One change was to allow Italians living abroad to vote and elect their own members of the parliament. The convential wisdom was that Italian expats would be very conservative. The other move was to change the apportionment system for the House, so that the coalition receiving a plurality of the vote would get at least 55% of the seats, regardless of the actual number of votes. (This was done under the theory that the right-wing coalition would win by a small margin.)

In the last elections, however, the left-wing coalition won the House by a margin of 0.1%: 49.8% versus 49.7%, and it got 348 of the 600 seats. In the Senate, the right-wing coalition won a majority of the votes in Italy, and one more seat. The expat vote, however, gave 4 out of 6 seats to the left-wing coalition, tilting the Senate majority in its favor.


  1. Blogger aram harrow
    4/18/2006 09:31:00 AM

    It'll be interesting to see how Berlusconi-linked companies are affected by this.

    This paper studied a similar effect in response to the Jeffords' scandal in the U.S.


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