Silvio Berlusconi

Tony Barber

(Getty)

According to the old saying, if you knew how a sausage was made, you’d never eat one. It is no easier on the stomach to watch the political intrigues that lie behind the formation of Italian governments.

A new government is on its way in Rome because Matteo Renzi, leader of the centre-left Democratic party, has decided to pull the plug on Enrico Letta’s premiership. It is difficult to see who other than the youthful, super-ambitious Renzi will replace Letta.

For Italy’s eurozone partners, this is a fateful moment. If Renzi, as prime minister, fails to deliver the reforms that European policy makers know are essential to keeping Italy in the eurozone, the likelihood that some other Italian politician will do so are exceedingly small.

But Renzi’s very public political assassination of Letta, his party comrade, was a kind of theatrical “stab in the front” that may one day return to haunt him. For if these are the methods he deems suitable to clear his path to national office, it is reasonable to assume that they will sooner or later be used against him. Read more

Tony Barber

Matteo Renzi (Getty)

Outside Italy there is an understandable enthusiasm for the constitutional and electoral reform proposals of Matteo Renzi, leader of the centre-left Democratic party. Italy unblocked – at last! Inside the nation itself, there is more caution and scepticism. This reflects the experience of Italians, who have travelled such roads in the past without being rewarded with better government and a better class of political leaders.

Renzi, 39, and Silvio Berlusconi, 77, leader of the revived conservative Forza Italia party, struck a deal this month which is beguiling in its simplicity. Read more

Tony Barber

(OLIVIER MORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

An optimist would draw much inspiration from Matteo Renzi’s convincing victory in Sunday’s primary elections for the leadership of Italy’s ruling centre-left Democratic party (PD). Doesn’t the success of the 38-year-old Florence mayor prove that a new generation of vigorous, reform-minded politicians is, at long last, replacing the squabbling, incompetent and sometimes corrupt oldsters who have presided over the nation’s decline over the past 20 years? Read more

♦ Spain may be emerging from the recession with a more competitive economy, but critics claim that confidence in the rebound is premature and potentially dangerous.
♦ A leaked video shows Egyptian Army officers debating how to influence the media before the military takeover.
♦ Patrick Cockburn writes about how media coverage of conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria doesn’t always reflect the whole reality of each war.
♦ Justice officials in Hong Kong admitted to knowing that one of Berlusconi’s allies tried to interfere with evidence in a money laundering case, where Berlusconi’s son is one of the defendents, according to the South China Morning Post.
♦ The stance of some Republican House members on the US government shutdown is generating anger among senior Republican officials, who think the small bloc of conservatives is undermining the party and helping President Obama. Read more

♦ The FT’s Matthew Garrahan looks at the effects of the sequester on a Los Alamos research centre.
♦ Silvio Berlusconi finds himself significantly weakened after making a U-turn and declaring his support for the coalition.
♦ Two Brookings Institute fellows warn that the US needs to change its policy on Egypt.
♦ Many of Egypt’s liberals moved to the right after the coup.
♦ Guadalajara is becoming the Bangalore of the Americas.
♦ A 72-year-old Syrian engineer and Munich resident’s kidnap, and escape, shows just how chaotic and confused the situation is on the ground in Syria.
♦ Ezra Klein at Wonkblog asks Robert Costa, Washington editor at the National Review, why John Boehner doesn’t just ditch the hard right.
♦ The Washington Post also looked at how Boehner came to be the man between a rock and a hard placeRead more

Tony Barber

(FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images)

As the FT’s former man in Rome, I find it poignant to see Silvio Berlusconi battling this week to hold together the political movement he launched 20 years ago. The billionaire Milanese entrepreneur did not seriously contemplate a political career until 1993, when he realised it would be the most effective way to protect his business interests. In fact, one of his closest associates once confided – perhaps only half-jokingly – that, if Berlusconi had not formed Forza Italia, the boss and his loyalists would have ended up either in prison or hanging lifeless à la Roberto Calvi under a London bridge.

In its various incarnations Forza Italia is sometimes depicted as one of the most formidable vote-gathering and coalition-building political machines of modern Europe. Read more

♦ The FT’s Martin Wolf asks whether the US is a functioning democracy.
♦ Charles Pierce at Esquire is already convinced that this was to be expected from “the worst Congress in the history of the Republic”.
♦ Russia is spending $755m on bolstering its military as part of Vladimir Putin’s plan to rebuild the country’s status as a credible diplomatic and military force.
♦ Silvio Berlusconi’s antics now do little to shock the bond markets – an indication that the eurozone crisis has moved decisively into a less aggressive phase, argues the FT’s Ralph Atkins.
♦ India’s Hindu temples are resisting requests from the central bank to declare their gold holdings amid mistrust of authorities trying to cut a hefty import bill.
♦ A new book on the birth of Bangladesh and the White House diplomacy of the time unearths conversations between Nixon and Kissinger that reveal their hateful attitudes towards IndiansRead more

Neil Buckley

After a testing two years for Vladimir Putin that saw the first serious protests against his rule, Russia’s president was back to his relaxed, confident and sometimes acerbic self at an annual meeting with academics and journalists on Thursday.

Though avoiding triumphalism, Mr Putin seemed to bask in his diplomatic success over the plan for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons. He also appeared to believe the sting had been drawn out of the demonstrations that followed parliamentary elections in December 2011 and his own decision to return for a third term as president. Read more

Pardon or no pardon, Silvio Berlusconi, who was handed a final conviction for tax fraud by the Supreme Court earlier in August, has for now retreated in his private residence just outside Milan, as uncertainty looms over his political future.

But, ever the master of reinvention, he has channelled his energies into launching the rebranding of his PDL party as Forza Italia (after an earlier attempt in 90s) and their move to new offices in Rome: decorators are at work, hauliers are being enlisted and preparations are underway for the grand opening expected in September. Read more

(Getty)

By Catherine Contiguglia

It seemed an era of Italian politics came to an end with the announcement that Italy’s supreme court had upheld a four-year sentence against Silvio Berlusconi for tax fraud.

Though the 76-year-old centre-right politician will not be going to jail due to his age, he could be placed under house arrest for a year, will not be able to hold public office for as long as five years, will not be able to run for elected office for six years and could be voted out of his current position as a senator.

Emerging from the ashes has been a major part of Berlusconi’s public career and, since the ruling, Berlusconi has assured his supporters he still has more plans up his sleeve. However, many believe this most recent ruling could be the definitive end of Berlusconi in politics. Read more