Forza Italia

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For the current italian political party launched in 2013, see Forza Italia (2013).
Forza Italia
President Silvio Berlusconi
Vice President Giulio Tremonti (2004-2008)
Roberto Formigoni (2008-2009)
Coordinator Denis Verdini (2009)
Spokesperson Daniele Capezzone (2009)
Founded 18 January 1994
Dissolved 27 March 2009
Merged into The People of Freedom
Headquarters Via dell'Umiltà 36, Rome
Membership 401,014[1] (2007)
Ideology Liberal conservatism[2]
Christian democracy[2][3]
Liberalism[3]
Populism[4][5][6]
Political position Centre-right[7]
National affiliation Pole of Freedoms/Pole of Good Government (1994),
Pole for Freedoms (1996-2001),
House of Freedoms (2001-2008)
International affiliation none
European affiliation European People's Party (1999-2009)
European Parliament group Forza Europa (1994–1995), Union for Europe (1995–1998), EPP–ED (1998–2009)
Colours      Azure
Politics of Italy
Political parties
Elections

Forza Italia[nb 1] (pronounced [ˈfɔrtsa iˈtaːlja]; FI), officially Forza Italia Political Movement (Movimento Politico Forza Italia), was a liberal-conservative,[8][9][10][11] Christian-democratic,[3][7][12] and liberal[7][12][13][14] political party in Italy, with a large social-democratic minority.[3] Its leader was Silvio Berlusconi, four times Prime Minister of Italy.

The party was founded in December 1993 and won its first general election soon afterwards in March 1994. It was the main member of the Pole of Freedoms/Pole of Good Government, Pole for Freedoms and House of Freedoms coalitions, and is considered (by both insiders and outsiders) to have been very different from the other Italian political parties.

In November 2008 the National Council of the party, presided by Alfredo Biondi, officially ruled on the dissolution of Forza Italia into The People of Freedom (PdL),[15] Berlusconi's new political vehicle, whose official foundation took place in March 2009.

History[edit]

Foundation (1993–1994)[edit]

Forza Italia was formed in 1993 by Silvio Berlusconi, a successful businessman and owner of four of the main private television stations in Italy, along with Antonio Martino, Mario Valducci, Antonio Tajani, Marcello Dell'Utri, Cesare Previti and Giuliano Urbani.

Italy was shaken by a series of corruption scandals known as Tangentopoli and the subsequent police investigation, called Mani pulite. This led to the disappearance of the five parties which governed Italy from 1947: DC, PSI, PSDI, PLI and PRI (they formed a successful five-party coalition called Pentapartito from 1983 to 1991, and then governed without PRI from 1991 to 1994) and to the end of the so-called First Republic.

Forza Italia's aim was to attract moderate voters who were "disoriented, political orphans and who risked being unrepresented" (as Berlusconi described them), especially if the Democratic Party of the Left (the direct heirs of the Italian Communist Party) had been able to win the next election and enter in government for the first time since 1947.

A short stint in power (1994–1995)[edit]

A few months after its creation, Forza Italia came to national power after the 1994 general election as the head of a political coalition called Pole of Freedoms/Pole of Good Government, composed of Lega Nord, National Alliance, Christian Democratic Centre and Union of the Centre.

Silvio Berlusconi was sworn in May 1994 as Prime Minister of Italy in a government in which the most important cabinet posts were held by fellow Forza Italia members: Antonio Martino was Foreign Minister, Cesare Previti Defence Minister, Alfredo Biondi Justice Minister and Giulio Tremonti (at the time an independent member of Parliament) Finance Minister.

In the 1994 European Parliament election held in June, Forza Italia was placed first nationally, with 30.6% of the vote, electing 27 MEPs. The party did not join an existing group in the European Parliament, instead forming the new group Forza Europa, composed entirely of Forza Italia MEPs.[16]

The first Berlusconi-led government had a short life and fell in December, when Lega Nord left the coalition, after disagreements over pension reform and the first avviso di garanzia (preliminary notice of an investigation) for Berlusconi, passed by Milan prosecutors. Forza Italia's leader was replaced as Prime Minister by Lamberto Dini, an independent politician who had been the administration's Treasury Minister. No members of Forza Italia joined the new government and the party leader was relegated to opposition.

Five years of opposition (1996–2001)[edit]

In 1996 the FI-led Pole for Freedoms lost the general election and began what Berlusconi called "the crossing of the desert", something that could have been proven fatal for a young and unstructured party such as Forza Italia. Between 1996 and 1998, the party started to strengthen its organisation, under Claudio Scajola, a former Christian Democrat who was national coordinator of the party from 1996 to 2001.

In December 1999 Forza Italia gained full membership of the European People's Party,[17] of which Antonio Tajani, FI party leader in the European Parliament, was Vice President. In the same year, it scored very well (25.2%) in the 1999 European Parliament election.

In the 2000 regional elections, the Pole for Freedoms, with the support of Lega Nord, won in 8 regions (the most populous ones, except Campania) out of 15 and Forza Italia's members were elected President of Region in Piedmont (Enzo Ghigo, confirmed), Lombardy (Roberto Formigoni, confirmed), Veneto (Giancarlo Galan, confirmed), Liguria (Sandro Biasotti, newly elected), Puglia (Raffaele Fitto, newly elected) and Calabria (Giuseppe Chiaravalloti, newly elected).

The party regained power in the 2001 general election (29.4% along with Giorgio La Malfa's tiny Italian Republican Party), in a new coalition called House of Freedoms (CdL) and composed mainly of the National Alliance, Lega Nord, Christian Democratic Centre and United Christian Democrats (the last two parties merged in 2002 to form the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats, UDC).

Five years in government (2001–2006)[edit]

In June 2001, after the huge success in May elections, Sivio Berlusconi was returned head of the Italian government, the longest-serving cabinet in the history of the Italian republic. Again all key ministerial posts were given to Forza Italia members: Interior (Claudio Scajola 2001–2002, Giuseppe Pisanu 2002–2006), Defence (Antonio Martino 2001–2006), Dinance (Giulio Tremonti, 2001–2004 and 2005–2006), Industry (Antonio Marzano 2001–2005, Claudio Scajola 2005–2006) and Foreign Affairs (Franco Frattini, 2002–2004). Additionally, National Alliance leader Gianfranco Fini was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister from 2004 to 2006, while Roberto Castelli, senior figure of Lega Nord was Justice Minister from 2001 to 2006.

In 2004 European elections, Forza Italia was second place nationally, receiving 20.1% of the vote and returning 16 MEPs.

In national office, the government's popularity kept declining steadily year after year. Regional elections in April 2005 were a serious blow for the party, which however remained strong in the northern regions, such as Lombardy and Veneto, and somewhere in the South, where Sicily was a stronghold. After this disappointing electoral performance the cabinet was reshuffled, due to the insistence of the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats's leaders, and Berlusconi formed his third cabinet.

During his five years in office, Berlusconi government passed a series of reforms: a pension system reform, a labour market reform, a judiciary reform and a constitutional reform – the latter rejected by a referendum in June 2006. In foreign policy he shifted the country's position to more closeness to the United States, while in economic policy he was not able to deliver the tax cuts he had openly promised throughout all 2001 electoral campaign.

Toward The People of Freedom (2006–2009)[edit]

2006 logo

In the 2006 general election the party was present with a slightly different logo, with the words "Berlusconi President" (Berlusconi Presidente). It was the only party to use the word "President" in its logo. In the election for the Chamber of Deputies, FI scored 23.7% and 137 seats, in those for the Senate 24.0%, without counting Trentino-Alto Adige, whose seats were contested on first-past-the-post basis and which is a left-wing stronghold, due to its alliance with the autonomist South Tyrolean People's Party). The incumbent Berlusconi-led government narrowly lost to The Union coalition, which returned Romano Prodi as Prime Minister, relegating Forza Italia and its House of Freedoms allies to opposition.

On 31 July 2007 Berlusconi's protegee and possible successor Michela Vittoria Brambilla registered the name and the logo of the "Freedom Party" (Partito della Libertà) apparently with Berlusconi's backing. On 18 November, after Forza Italia claimed to have collected the signatures of more than 7 million Italians (including Umberto Bossi) against Romano Prodi's second government in order to ask the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano to call a fresh election,[18] Berlusconi announced that Forza Italia would have soon merged or transformed into The People of Freedom (PdL) party.[19]

After the sudden fall of the Prodi II Cabinet on 24 January 2008, the break-up of The Union coalition and the subsequent political crisis paving the way towards a new general election, Berlusconi hinted on 25 January that Forza Italia would have probably contested its final election and the new party would have be officially founded after that election. In an atmosphere of reconciliation with Gianfranco Fini, Berlusconi also stated that the new party could have seen the participation of other parties.[20] Finally, on 8 February, Berlusconi and Fini agreed to form a joint list under the banner of the "The People of Freedom", allied with Lega Nord.[21] In the 2008 general election the PdL won 37.4% and a majority in both chambers, thanks to the alliance with Lega Nord (8.3%). Soon after the election Berlusconi formed his fourth government.

On 21 November 2008 the National Council of the party, presided over by Alfredo Biondi and attended by Berlusconi himself, officially decided the dissolution of Forza Italia into The People of Freedom (PdL), whose official foundation took place on 27 March 2009.

Revival (2013)[edit]

Main article: Forza Italia (2013)

In June 2013 Berlusconi announced the upcoming revival of Forza Italia, and the transformation of the People of Freedom into a centre-right coalition.[22] The modern-day Forza Italia was launched on 18 September 2013[23] and the PdL was dissolved into the new party on 16 November 2013.[24]

Ideology[edit]

Forza Italia was a centre-right party, formed mainly by ex-Christian Democrats, ex-Liberals and ex-Socialists. The ideology of the party ranged from libertarianism to social democracy (often referred to as "liberal socialism" in Italy), including elements of the Catholic social teaching and the social market economy.[25] The party was a member of the European People's Party (EPP) and presented itself as the party of renewal and modernization. The core values of Forza Italia were "freedom" and the "centrality of the individual".[3] From a comparative perspective the ideology of Forza Italia has been characterized as both "liberal conservative",[2][8][9][26][27][28] "national conservative"[29] and "liberal".[13]

Alessandro Campi wrote that "the political culture of Forza Italia – a curious and, on many respects, untold mixture of "liberalism" and "democratic populism" – deserves to be described as an "anti-ideologic ideology", [...] as a synthesis or fusion of very diverse political families and traditions (from liberal catholicism to social conservatism, from reformist socialism to economic liberalism), kept together by the mobilizing appeal to "freedom"".[3] Chiara Moroni, who explains Forza Italia's ideology as a mixture of liberal, Christian-democratic and social-democratic values (united in the concept of "popular liberalism" in party documents), wrote that "Berlusconi offered to voters liberal values through a populist style" and that "Forza Italia has made the liberal political ideal popular" among voters, so that "it was spread and shared by broad and heterogenous sectors of the Italian population".[3]

In fact the electoral base of Forza Italia was highly heterogeneous and the ideological differences among its voters are explained also by its different regional constituencies: while voters from the North tended to support the original libertarian line of the party, voters from the South tended to be more statist.[30] Both its Northern strongholds (Lombardy, Veneto) and its Southern strongholds (Sicily, Apulia) were once dominated by the Christian Democracy party, but, while in the South most leading members of Forza Italia are former Christian Democrats, the party was highly influenced also by liberals in the North.[31]

Forza Italia claimed to be a fresh new party, with no ties with the last governments of the so-called First Republic, and at the same time to be the heir of the best political traditions of Italy: Christian Democrat Alcide De Gasperi, Social Democrat Giuseppe Saragat, Liberal Luigi Einaudi and Republican Ugo La Malfa were considered as party icons.[25]

The "Secular Creed", that was also the preamble to the party's constitution, described the party in this way:

Forza Italia is a liberal party although not an elitist one, indeed a popular liberal-democratic party; it is a Catholic party although not a confessional one; it is a secular party, although not an intolerant and secularist one; it is a national party, although not a centralist one.[32][33]

Forza Italia thus presented itself as a bridge between Catholics and non-Catholics, who have been previously divided in the political system of the First Republic, and "the union of three political-cultural areas: that of liberal and popular Catholicism, that of secular, liberal and republican humanism and that of liberal socialism".[25] In a speech during a party congress in 1998, Berlusconi himself proclaimed: "our liberal vision of the State is perfectly in agreement with the Catholic social teaching".[34]

The "Secular Creed" of the party explains that FI was a party that primarily underlined freedom and the centrality of the individual, which are basic principles of both liberalism[35] and the Catholic social teaching,[36] often connected in party official documents:

We believe in freedom, in all its several and vital forms: in the freedom of thought, in the freedom of expression, in religious freedom, of every religion, in the freedom of association. [...] Freedom is not graciously conceded by the State, because it comes before it. It is a natural right, which belongs to us as we are human beings and it itself rather lays the foundations of the State. [...] We believe that the State should be at the service of citizens, and not citizens at the service of the State. We believe that the State should be the servant of the citizen and not the citizen the servant of the State. The citizen is sovereign. For this, we believe concretely in the individual [...]. We believe in the values of our Christian tradition, in the life values which cannot be renounced, in common good, in freedom of education and learning, in peace, in solidarity, in justice, in tolerance [...].[37]

In 2008 Berlusconi stated that:

We want a social market economy. A democracy cannot afford citizens in poor conditions. With our book on welfare we tackle the needs of the weakest families. It is decidedly a left-wing policy. This government which centrist, liberal, with Catholics and reformists, intends to advance with policies that the left-wing promises by word of mouth.[38]

Sandro Bondi, a leading member of the party, wrote:

Forza Italia considers liberal classics as Croce, Sturzo, Hayek and Einaudi as reference authors. In particular, it hark back to the social market economy of Röpke, which was conceived in reference to the traditional social teaching of the Church. Forza Italia has imparted a deep cultural innovation, combining the language of the Church tradition with the liberal and reformist thought.[3]

The party included also non-Catholic members, but they were a minority, and it was less secular in its policies than Christian Democratic Union of Germany.[39] (in which there are also prominent Jews[40]). The party usually gave to its members freedom of conscience on moral issues (and hence a free vote), as in the case of the referendum on stem-cell research,[41] but leading members of the party, including Silvio Berlusconi,[42] Giulio Tremonti and Marcello Pera[43] (who is himself non-Catholic, although friend of Pope Benedict XVI), spoke in favour of "abstention" (as asked by the Catholic Church,[44] in order to not surpass the 50% of turnout needed for making the referendum legally binding). While Pera campaigned hard for the success of the boycott alongside with most FI members, both Berlusconi and Tremonti explicitly said that "abstention" was their personal opinion, not the official one of the party.

Members[edit]

See also List of Forza Italia leading members by political origin

Most members of the party were former Christian Democrats (DC): Giuseppe Pisanu (former member of the leftist faction of DC and Minister of Interior), Roberto Formigoni (President of Lombardy), Claudio Scajola (former Minister of the Interior and of Industry), Enrico La Loggia, Renato Schifani, Guido Crosetto, Raffaele Fitto, Giuseppe Gargani, Alfredo Antoniozzi, Giorgio Carollo, Giuseppe Castiglione, Francesco Giro, Luigi Grillo, Maurizio Lupi, Mario Mantovani, Mario Mauro, Osvaldo Napoli, Antonio Palmieri, Angelo Sanza, Riccardo Ventre and Marcello Vernola are only some remarkable examples.

Several members were former Socialists (PSI), as Giulio Tremonti (Vice President of the party and former Minister of Economy), Franco Frattini (Vice President of the European Commission), Fabrizio Cicchitto (national deputy-coordinator of the party), Renato Brunetta, Francesco Musotto, Amalia Sartori, Paolo Guzzanti and Margherita Boniver. Berlusconi himself was a close friend of Bettino Craxi, leader of the PSI, in spite of his own Christian Democratic and Liberal background (Berlusconi was a DC activist in occasion of the 1948 general election).

Many were former Liberals (PLI), Republicans (PRI) and Social Democrats (PSDI): Alfredo Biondi (President of Forza Italia's National Council) and Raffaele Costa, both former PLI leaders, and former PSDI leader Carlo Vizzini were later MPs for Forza Italia. Also Antonio Martino and Giancarlo Galan were formers Liberals, Jas Gawronski was a leading Republican, while Marcello Pera has a Socialist and Radical background.

Even some former Communists were leading members of the party, such as national party coordinator Sandro Bondi and Fernando Adornato.

Factions[edit]

Members of Forza Italia were divided in factions, which were sometimes mutable and formed over the most important political issues, despite previous party allegiances. However it is possible to distinguish some patterns. The party was divided basically over ethical (between social conservatives and progressives), economic (between social democrats and some Christian democrats on one side and liberals on the other one) and institutional issues.

Regarding the latter issue, generally speaking, northern party members were staunch proposers of political and fiscal federalism, and autonomy for the Regions (in some parts of Veneto and Lombardy, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish a member of FI from a leghista), while those coming from the South were more cold on the issue. Also some former Liberals, due to their role of unifiers of Italy in the 19th century, were more centralist.

A scheme of the internal factions within Forza Italia could be this:

Christian democrats and liberal-centrists were undoubtedly the strongest factions within the party, but all four were mainstream for a special issue: for example liberals and liberal-centrists were highly influential over economic policy, Christian democrats led the party over ethical issues (although there was a substantial minority promoting a more progressive outlook), while social democrats had their say in defining the party's policy over labour market reform and, moreover, it is thanks to this group (and to those around Tremonti, he himself a former Socialist) that constitutional reform was at the top of Forza Italia's political agenda. It is difficult to say to what faction Berlusconi was closer, what is sure is that his political record was a synthesis of all the political tendencies within the party.

Internal structure[edit]

Before being merged into the PdL, Forza Italia had a President (currently Silvio Berlusconi), two Vice-Presidents (Giulio Tremonti and Roberto Formigoni), a Presidential Committee (presided by Claudio Scajola) and a National Council (presided by Alfredo Biondi).

As the President is the leader of the party, a national coordinator was in charge of internal organisation and day-to-day political activity, similarly to the secretary-general in many European parties. Moreover the party had thematic departments and regional, provincial or metropolitan coordination boards plus many affiliate clubs (Club Azzurro) all over Italy.

It has been claimed that Forza Italia had no internal democracy because there was no way of changing the leader of the party from below (although the party's constitution makes it possible). Key posts in the party structure were appointed by Berlusconi or by his delegates. Forza Italia's organisation was based on the idea of a "party of the elected people", giving more importance to the whole electorate than to party's members.

Party national-level conventions did not have normally elections to choose the party leadership (although the National Congress elected some members of the National Council), and they seemed to be more like events arranged for propaganda purposes. However, Berlusconi was highly popular among his party fellows, and it was unlikely he could have been overthrown if such an election had occurred.

Within the party there was a long debate over organisation. The original idea was the so-called "light party" (partito leggero), intended to be different from Italian traditional, bureaucratic and self-referential, party machines. This was the line of the early founders of the party, notably Marcello Dell'Utri and Antonio Martino. However Claudio Scajola and most former Christian Democrats supported a more capillary-based organisation, in order to make participate as much people as possible, and a more collegial, participative and democratic decision-making process.

In a 1999 study, political scientists Jonathan Hopkin and Caterina Paolucci likened the organisational model of the party to that of a business firm, describing it as having "a lightweight organisation with the sole basic function of mobilising short-term support at election time".[45] Several other authors have adopted this comparison,[46][47][48][49] and have labeled Berlusconi as a "political entrepreneur".[50][51][52]

Distinctive traits[edit]

From its birth Forza Italia used unconventional means for European politics (in fact resembling more the American model), such as stickering, SMS messaging and mass mailing of propaganda material, including the biography of its leader Berlusconi, "An Italian story" (Una storia italiana).

The party was heavily dependent on Berlusconi's image. The party's anthem was sung in karaoke fashion at American-style conventions. There was nominally no internal opposition (although some critical voices raised up, such as those of Senators Paolo Guzzanti and Raffaele Iannuzzi). The party used TV advertising extensively, although this was slightly restricted following 2000 by a law passed by the centre-left majority of the time.

European affiliation[edit]

Following its first European election in 1994, Forza Italia MEPs formed their own political group in the European Parliament called Forza Europa.[16] In 1995, Forza Europa merged with the European Democratic Alliance to form the Union for Europe group alongside the Rally for the Republic of France and Fianna Fáil of Ireland.[53][54] Following an abandoned attempt to form a European political party with Rally for the Republic in 1997,[54] on 10 June 1998 Forza Italia was accepted into the Group of the European People's Party.[55] In December 1999 Forza Italia was finally granted full membership of the European People's Party (EPP).[17]

Popular support[edit]

The electoral results of Forza Italia in the 10 most populated regions of Italy are shown in the table below.

1994 general 1995 regional 1996 general 1999 European 2000 regional 2001 general 2004 European 2005 regional 2006 general
Piedmont 26.5 26.7 21.7 28.8 30.8 32.0 22.2 22.4 23.5
Lombardy 26.0 29.2 23.6 30.5 33.9 32.3 25.7 26.0 27.1
Veneto 23.7 24.0 17.1 26.0 30.4 32.0 24.6 22.7 24.5
Emilia-Romagna 16.5 18.2 15.1 20.4 21.2 23.8 19.8 18.2 18.6
Tuscany 16.4 19.1 14.3 19.5 20.3 21.7 17.8 17.2 16.9
Lazio 20.5 18.9 16.1 20.6 21.5 26.4 17.5 15.4 21.4
Campania 19.9 18.9 23.4 25.2 20.9 33.8 19.5 11.9 27.2
Apulia -[nb 2] 20.7 24.6 28.0 28.7 30.1 20.4 26.8[nb 3] 27.3
Calabria 19.0 19.7 18.3 21.4 18.3 25.7 13.0 10.0 20.7
Sicily 33.6 17.1 (1996) 32.2 26.8 25.1 (2001) 36.7 21.5 19.2 (2006) 29.1
ITALY 21.0 - 20.4 25.2 - 29.4 21.0 - 23.7

Electoral results[edit]

Italian Parliament[edit]

Chamber of Deputies
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1994 8,138,781 (#1) 21.0
113 / 630
Silvio Berlusconi
1996 7,712,149 (#2) 20.6
122 / 630
Increase 9
Silvio Berlusconi
2001 10,923,431 (#1) 29.4
178 / 630
Increase 56
Silvio Berlusconi
2006 9,045,384 (#2) 23.6
140 / 630
Decrease 38
Silvio Berlusconi
Senate of the Republic
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1994 8,138,781 (#1) 21.0
36 / 315
Silvio Berlusconi
1996 7,712,149 (#2) 20.6
48 / 315
Increase 12
Silvio Berlusconi
2001 10,923,431 (#1) 29.4
82 / 315
Increase 34
Silvio Berlusconi
2006 9,045,384 (#2) 23.6
79 / 315
Decrease 3
Silvio Berlusconi

European Parliament[edit]

European Parliament
Election year # of
overall votes
 % of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Leader
1994 10,809,139 (#1) 30.6
27 / 87
Silvio Berlusconi
1999 7,913,948 (#1) 25.2
22 / 87
Decrease 5
Silvio Berlusconi
1999 6,806,245 (#2) 20.9
16 / 78
Decrease 6
Silvio Berlusconi

Leadership[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The name is not usually translated into English: forza is the second-person singular imperative of forzare, "to press", and so means something like "Forward, Italy" or "Go Italy!" Forza Italia! was used as a sport slogan, and was also the slogan of Christian Democracy in the 1987 general election (see Giovanni Baccarin, Che fine ha fatto la DC?, Gregoriana, Padova 2000). See article body for details.
  2. ^ Forza Italia failed to present a list.
  3. ^ Combined result of Forza Italia (17.8%) and La Puglia prima di tutto (9.0%), personal list of FI regional leader Raffaele Fitto.

References[edit]

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  4. ^ Woods, Dwayne (2014). The Many Faces of Populism in Italy: The Northern League and Berlusconism. The Many Faces of Populism: Current Perspectives (Emerald Group). pp. 28, 41–44. 
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  11. ^ Ruth Wodak; John E. Richardson (2013). Analysing Fascist Discourse: European Fascism in Talk and Text. Routledge. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-415-89919-2. 
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  24. ^ http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/16/us-italy-berlusconi-idUSBRE9AE15M20131116
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