The Economist frequently commented that Silvio Berlusconi was not fit to run Italy. A corrupt media billionaire frequently avoiding criminal prosecution using statute of limitation and immunity rules did not seem like a good role model for the country. Moreover for those who used to argue that he may be corrupt but he was the only leader with the practical experience needed to fix the anemic state of the Italian economy there was little left to say when Italy became the worst performing of the large European economies. As a result Silvio Berlusconi lost the last elections. But last night Italy went to the other extreme, from the corrupt media tycoon Prime Minister to the reformed pro Soviet Communist President. Is choosing Giorgio Napolitano, an 81 year old communist who supported the Soviet Dictatorship wise? Personally I feel embarrassed about Europe now having a President who applauded the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, the repression of Prague of 1968 and all the Soviet led horrors that we know were taking place around that time. How will Giorgio Napolitano interact with the fellow Presidents in the region, the Poles, the Hungarians, the Czechs, who bravely fought the Soviets for decades while he defended them? It seems to me that Europe has rightly condemned the horrors of the Nazi dictatorships but it has not really come to terms with the injustice of the Soviet Empire. People who supported a regime who would shoot emigrants at the Berlin Wall should not be given such a prominent role in contemporary society.

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Davide on May 11, 2006  · 


The refreshing after Aznar (close friend to our former prime minister Berlusconi) government make you spanish people feeling free of criticizing everything happens in Italian political life?

Napolitano is the better choice, it ha been voted also by someone in the center-right winged opposition because he’s known for being (despite the past, and you’re talking about the past of a 81 year-older!) a super-partes politician.

I don’t want to fly above the Soviet crimes, but I think it’s not and issue now, we -as italians- have a lot o problems, not that kind of problems for which the “fresh” Italian Republic President
is asked to solve.

He’s only a “guarantee figure”.
And more,for international relationships, diplomacy exists.

I understand your embarassing but I think someone has over-enphatized Napolitano’s communist past.

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Federico Magnus on May 11, 2006  · 

Ciao Martin,

e’ senza dubbio vero che l’invasione dell’Ungheria da parte delle truppe Sovietiche non fu criticata dal Partito Comunista Italiano di cui Giorgio Napolitano era dirigente. E’ pero’ altrettanto vero che l’allora PCI prese (anche se in maniera ambigua) le distanze dalla repressione sovietica a Praga nel ’68. Sono d’accordo con Te che gli orrori del Nazismo sono entrati nella “coscenza collettiva dell’Occidente mentre quelli del Comunismo trovano ancora delle difficolta’ ad entrarvi. Ricordiamoci pero’ che i Comunisti erano dalla parte dei vincitori… gli aspetti psicologici hanno giocato un ruolo importante nella rimozione della questione.
Certamente Giuliano Amato sarebbe stato meglio.
Un Caro Saluto

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SAVERIO on May 11, 2006  · 

Federico hai raggione, Giulio sarebbe stato meglio.
Ma penso che sarebbe meglio avere un presidente senza un passato politico. Puó essere un giudize dal supremo, una figura sociale…
Penso che questo é meglio secondo il rolo che svilupa il presidente de l’ Italia.
Veramente mi ha colpito molto i candidati presentati da Romano Prodi, vedo che ci ritorniamo enl tempo d’alema (l’altro candidato) e di L’olivo… E si é cosi é meglio Berlusconi…

Giulio it was better option, but I preffer to have an Italian president without a political past, like a judge or a social figure…
It was a surprised for me the options that they presented to be the president. I tougth that Romano Prodi was a good option, but I start to think that we come back to the times of Massimo d’alema and the “olivo”… In that case I preffer the ultra corrupt goverment of Silvio…

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Luca Conti on May 11, 2006  · 

Martin, ti faccio notare, con tutto il rispetto che ho per te, che quanto dici è pretestuoso.

Napolitano ha fatto quelle dichiarazioni 50 anni fa e oggi non le rifarebbe. Non vedo quindi perché e come ci possa essere imbarazzo.

Napolitano è stato Presidente della Camera dei Deputati e Senatore a vita. L’Italia non è una Repubblica presidenziale, il suo è un ruolo di garanzia e lo può benissimo svolgere, così come attestato anche da parte dell’opposizione di centro.

Hai preso un granchio 🙂 permettimi di fartelo notare.

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pier on May 11, 2006  · 

Hi Martin,

you shouldn’t be worried by communists getting power in italy.
First point, Napolitanno will not be the Prime Minister of Italy, but the President of the Republic.
The new Prime Minister of Italy will be Prodi.
Second point, Napolitano has strongly condamned the repression of Prague.
Here find a link to an article written almost 20 years ago by Napolitano:

This is why, in Italy, Napolitano is considered also by most right-wing politicians as an acceptable choice.

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Neok on May 12, 2006  · 

Hi Martin,

As a frequent reader of your blog I very often agree with what you say, but also are careful for taking everything for granted what you write. It’s important to be critical, and as I don’t know much about Italian politics, but fascinated by it, I dropped your blog entry into a debate with some Italian friends that have a clear opinion on this and got following answer:

Maybe too long to publish, but an interesting reply to this entry.

I think you should be careful when you read blogs on the internet, the one you refer to it’s really extreme…

I personally believe that Giorgio Napolitano is going to be a good President for the Italian Republic. First of all he is with no doubts a person of values ( exactly the contrary of Mr. Berlusconi), a person that was yes inside the communist party but that contributed to the democratic and painful changes that took place inside the same party with the event of the Euro communism. He was often isolated inside the PCI because of its moderate positions and the openness of his thoughts and of his idea.

He is a politician with a high sense of the institutions , of the dialogue between different political ideas and between the institutions themselves. Moreover, even as a MEP in Brussels he has been working hard, with sense of duty and dedication, for the European idea and values.

Affirming that Napolitano is an antidemocrat because he is the first president of our republic coming from the communist party, is very reductive.on the contrary I find it a very good sign of the turn Italy has taken after ’89 of being a full democracy.

I also would like to underline once for all the communist idea in Italy have been very different from their “brothers” in East Europe, and I am sure our fellows from Poland and all the new states undestand the main difference. And again, after Prague in 1968 ( but already after Budapest in 56) serious doubts and fractures started to rise inside the PCI, because of the striking difference between the ideology behind the party and the actual implementation of the communist ideas from the USSR

The real problem here is: why do we have to fish always for very very old politicians to find respectable man ( or women) that can be candidates for our high institutions?

XXX ( left wing voter, but not communist)

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Fernando Cassia on May 13, 2006  · 


I guess you’re not aware that presidents in countries with a political system like Italy have little influence, it’s the PRIME MINISTER who ends up having the real power and making the day-to-day policy deceisions.

In that sense, Romano Prodi’s credentials are impecable when compared to his predecessor’s, and according to US media “the new center-left coalition government headed by Romano Prodi promises to produce the best Italy can expect”.

Interestingly and unlike you, the International Herald Tribune does not spread FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) and describes Prodi as “a serious player with a respectable track record in Italy’s public life, a good international reputation and strong Europeanist credentials. He is likely to repair large parts of Italy’s credibility that have been seriously damaged by corporate scandals, most notably the saga over the management of the Bank of Italy.”

Italy: Give Prodi a chance

So, Martin, why not take off your mask and expose yourself fully: are you in favour of progressive governments or not?. What is your hidden agenda for discrediting Italy’s new government and spreading doubt about it even before it gets to power and starts its job?.

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Martín Varsavsky on May 13, 2006  · 

I am aware, Fernando. I like Prodi.


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Saverio on May 14, 2006  · 

#7 #8

I like Prodi too, but he is only the face, but I’m scared that the body would be the same that had massimo d’alema…

I think after his experience as president of the comission ha growth a lot as a politician, but in Italy the problem with the prime ministers are the governability… and the agrements that they took to govern the country… So we will see…

Other thing is that I think that isn’t fair that the president of the comission after goes to a national elections, because he can start to prepare his return to national policy during his presidential period… and that will disturb the work of the comission.

Also is not fair because the relevance that has the president of the comission gives a competitive advantage. How many president of US were governors after his presidential period???

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Vincent on May 18, 2006  · 

Hi Martin,
i’m glad to know around the world is there people who cares Italy. I thank you for FON initiative, i think it’s a big thing and i told about it in my blog, about privacy and digital rights.
So, i am communist. Communist Party in Italy has a different story from other communist party worldwide.
It was not a “soviet” party, because it borns from Socialist party and rapresented for many years the Labour party of italian society.
Giorgio Napolitano, is not communist in the strict sense of the world, you can consider him as a labour one.
He rapresents the moderate part of PCI (Communist Italian Party).
Communist party in Italy is now called Rifondazione (Refaundation Communist Party), and is a modern labour party, in the sign of Marx literature.
Please refer to Giorgio Napolitano’s biography in wikipedia (

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Antonio on May 19, 2006  · 

Napolitano will be an excellent President. He is one notable figure of Italy’s republican history and he contributed along with his party – which until fifteen years ago represented the main opposition group here – to the development of our society and democracy.

Italians volunteer combatants who came in Spain to help our sister country not to fall under the talon of Franco’s dictatorship would be glad to hear how much recognition their political heirs do receive from mister Varsavsky.

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Eremita on October 12, 2007  · 

Napolitano is one of the reason for which is now embarassing to be italian. This stupid asshole has welcomed the soviet horror exportation to Hungary. “He delcared 50 yrs ago something he wouldn’t include in his speech today”? Ah, cool, so let’s resuscitate Hitler and Pol Pot maybe… Napolitano, Prodi and all their band of mafia guys are sinking Italy. Let’s hope to have back Berlusconi asap.

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