Saturday, April 15, 2006

Berlusconi's bizarre ballot-stuffer backfires

Silvio Berlusconi has been on a collision course with poetic justice for some time, and with the help of our neighbors to the north, he's apparently going to get it. Doug Saunders in the Toronto Globe and Mail tells the strange story.
The votes of 40,000 Canadian citizens who qualify as "Italians abroad," some of whom have never set foot in Italy and many of whom don't speak Italian, played a pivotal role in the defeat of billionaire Silvio Berlusconi in Italy's election yesterday, according to poll results released late last night.

For the first time in history, a country's political fate appears to have been determined by citizens of other countries, after Mr. Berlusconi introduced a scheme in 2002 that defines eligible Italian voters by blood lines rather than residency.
The "Italians abroad" voting scheme was designed by Mirko Tremaglia, the 80-year-old Minister of Italians in the World. An unapologetic defender of the Fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, Mr. Tremaglia is said to have modelled the scheme after a Fascist scheme that defined Italians as a race.

Under Mr. Tremaglia's new electoral law, eligible voters are defined as anyone with a continuous line of male descendants going back to a man born in Italy. The voter needs only to register with an Italian consulate, and does not have to speak Italian, have visited Italy or even have parents who were born in Italy.
Berlusconi supported the strange absentee voter scheme because he assumed he would get the majority of the vote, but he didn't. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

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