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Berlusconi is back. What were Italian voters thinking?

I love Italy. The food, the wine, the artistic heritage, the warm climate, the shoes — all amazing.

(Mauro Scrobogna/Associated Press)

I also love the friendly, convivial and attractive citizens of Europe’s “Boot,” known for both continental charm and Mediterranean passion. That said, these lovely residents of Italian paradise might consider cutting back on the fermented grapes after knocking the global economy into a tailspin this week.

Silvio Berlusconi ‘s political career rocked the Italian government with scandal and corruption for two decades until he finally resigned its highest office in disgrace in 2011. But, after only a few months, he wanted back in. Luckily for the 76-year-old, the weak Euro recently forced the European Union to crack down on Rome’s burdensome debts, and Mario Monti, Berlusconi’s rival and replacement, has been vigorously collecting taxes. Among billionaire Berlusconi’s questionable campaign commitments is that he will personally refund the money.

The good people of la dolce vita – apparently unwilling to embrace European economic austerity — nearly returned their clownish, criminal and clearly crazy former prime minister to office in Monday’s election. The efforts of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to guide Europe out of fiscal crisis immediately destabilized. As the Italian election results became clear Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 200 points on worries that Italy won’t follow through on promised economic policies.

Apparently untroubled by the media mogul’s history of tax evasion, sex with underage women and bribery, Italian voters also gave Berlusconi’s Right of Center party enough clout to tie up parliament in a frightening example of the downside of democracy. (With his private ownership of a large chunk of Italian media, and an unlimited campaign budget, the candidate has captured the hearts and minds of his politically tolerant people.)

Meantime, Berlusconi continues to position his return to politics. The loosely-principled potentate is calling for a coalition government to cement his hold on power, while the rest of Europe holds its breath hoping for a re-do vote in Italy in a few months.

If the Italian electorate does get another chance to rethink their choices, I suggest they lay off the wine until their ballots are cast.

Bonnie Goldstein is a Washington, D.C., writer. Follow her on Twitter at @KickedByAnAngel.



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