It’s the same as always: the kickbacks in the public works projects, the bribes passed from hand to hand in the elevator, the vote buying scandal involving the white collar mafia in the Siri case, public officials accused of rigging public tenders for healthcare services in Umbria, all the way to the suspicion that organized crime has already infiltrated the reconstruction project for the collapsed Morandi Bridge in Genova—and culminating with Thursday’s arrest of the mayor and deputy mayor of Legnano, a city that is a symbol of the Lega party.
So this is the corruption factory where Italy produces its “anti-politics.” Indeed, it has been working at such an industrious pace that—let’s face it—these everyday stories of corruption are not only failing to surprise us anymore, but even the rhetoric coming in their wake is, if anything, nothing but a rote invocation of the gears of justice turning, or an obsequious display of respect for the rights of the accused, if they happen to be among the powerful, combined with an outraged cry of “Lock them up and throw away the key!” if they aren’t.
With Salvini, Lega is trying to sell the image of a party that has cleaned up its act after 20 years of them and Berlusconi being thick as thieves. However, the investigations into Lega and Forza Italia (FI) officials tell a different story, that of a quid-pro-quo business-as-usual that has continued apace, and even gotten worse, in what is the leading economic region of the country. Meanwhile, the Interior Minister appears smaller and smaller as he dodges and weaves, disparaging and railing against immigrants and issuing warnings to the Sea Watch vessel in an attempt to divert public attention back to the issue of security, which he is betting will net him many votes on May 26.
But even the head of Lega is finding it difficult to keep up his winning smile, with the Five Stars attacking his party’s conflicts of interest and political quid-pro-quos with organized crime.
The M5S ha succeeded in winning the support of leftist Liberi e Uguali (LeU) President Pietro Grasso and the party’s senators on the vote to criminalize collusion with organized crime by political candidates, while the Democratic Party and the FI decided to vote against.
Besides, there is a welcoming committee being prepared for Salvini in Milan, for his big campaign finale together with Marine Le Pen, in the form of a peaceful revolt of banners and sheets bearing slogans, which will hang from the balconies everywhere along his path.
The ordinary citizens on the balconies will rise up against the Mussoliniesque balcony speeches; they will pit their own selfies full of mockery against the reverent selfies of his devotees, and the opposition will deploy all forms of creativity to strike a blow with the contagious weapon of irony. This is what always makes him angry and awkward in equal measure, cutting a ridiculous figure as he sends in the police to run around ripping banners and investigating those who bear them.
We must also mention the very serious scandal of the suspension of the schoolteacher in Palermo, who was punished and got her pay docked for allowing her students to express themselves freely regarding the similarities between certain historical events and current political reality. Apparently, she should have been playing the part of political censor instead.
We can’t say how big a factor corruption will be in these elections—probably not much, considering how far and wide this phenomenon has spread throughout our society. Moreover, even the biggest investigation into “Bribesville” ended up vanishing from public attention when the investigators arrived before the full extent of the tangled web of endemic corruption that runs everywhere.
Raffaele Cantone, head of the National Anti-Corruption Authority, justly quoted President Sergio Mattarella’s words that corruption is “a theft of democracy”—because it is obvious to everyone that bribes are how people get ahead in the political parties and how they get into public office, while the ordinary citizens are relegated to the role of subjects, a mere rabble to be appeased or roused according to the interests of those in power.
The exposure of this conveyor belt of corruption might lead to more abstention at the polls; it might give a boost to the Five Stars, and make Salvini pay a price for putting party loyalty above all else. No doubt, it is an explosive ingredient added to the mix of this European elections campaign, with predictable future effects on a government contract that is itself a ticking time bomb.
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