Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has opened up the Italian media about being compared to US President elect Donald Trump. He also used the opportunity to slam Barack Obama for creating "instability."
"There are similarities between me and Trump, but I don't embody the right-wing," former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Saturday. In the same interview, Berlusconi condemned US President Barack Obama for destabilizing the world by promoting the Arab Spring.
The comparison is an easy one to draw, and not only because of a common penchant for sexist and offensive statements or perennial roles as lawsuit defendants. In 1993, then a highly successful media magnate, Berlusconi rose to power as the leader of the newly-founded nationalist and populist Forza Italia party.
He has allegedly admitted he entered politics to enjoy parliamentary immunity as he found the legal complaints against his businesses piling up. Over three nonconsecutive terms, the tycoon went on to become Italy's longest-serving prime minister since World War II.
'Let Trump work'
Berlusconi told Corriere della Sera that Italy was in no position to criticize the US' choice: "Donald Trump will demonstrate his ability to govern his country….the discussion [in Italy] does not make sense. It only shows a small-minded superiority complex towards America that Italian politicians are not entitled to."
Another Trump similarity: Berlusconi has maintained a high opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin
Then, referring to a series of unelected prime ministers installed after political crises, including current leader Matteo Renzi, the Forza Italia president said that at least the US government was chosen by its citizens.
The mogul said he believed Clinton lost because she was "an element of continuity from the eight years of Obama and the Washington establishment. Obama has made many mistakes, especially in international politics. The encouragement of the so-called Arab Spring, inefficient opposition towards Islamic fundamentalism, counterproductive tensions with Russia. He has weakened America's position and made the world a more unstable and dangerous place."
When comparing himself to Trump, however, Berlusconi played up his more humble origins when compared to the president elect, who famously got a 14 million dollar loan from his father to start out his businesses. All in all, though, Berlusconi said he respected Trump's decision to eschew political correctness and focus on "the weak citizens harassed by the state, taxes, bureaucracy, uncontrolled immigration, unemployment and the danger of terrorism."
"Americans have chosen Trump. Now let him work."
Italian referendum next test for the right-wing
While many have pointed to France's spring election as the next big test for right-wing populism in the West, a December referendum in Italy could spell the return of a nationalist majority in Rome.
In an effort to streamline a system that has been, if more democratic, then perhaps less stable in comparison to other Western countries, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has prepared a referendum on restricting the size of the Italy's at time unwieldy parliament and giving the central government more power. If the opposition "No," vote prevails, Renzi has vowed to step down.
Berlusconi, of course, is a staunch "No" supporter, telling the newspaper that he hoped "the same spirit" that saw Americans reject "politics as usual" would encourage "Italians to vote 'No' in a referendum that limits their freedom of choice."
The former prime minister then accused Renzi of trying to install an authoritarian regime.