Da International Herald Tribune del 22/03/2006
Originale su http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/03/21/news/italy.php

An old ally of Berlusconi becomes a foe

di Eric Sylvers

MILAN - Unhappiness among some of Italy's business elite with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's handling of the economy erupted again Tuesday after a leading company executive abruptly resigned from the board of the country's main business lobby and criticized the Italian leader.

Diego Della Valle, chairman of Tod's, the luxury shoemaker, resigned from the board of Confindustria on Monday night after he argued bitterly and publicly with Berlusconi on Saturday during a Confindustria meeting.

"Berlusconi thinks that Italy is his and that he can do whatever he wants with it," Della Valle said in an interview with the newspaper La Repubblica that was published Tuesday. He said that he had resigned to avoid dragging Confindustria into what has become a personal feud with Berlusconi and that his previous support for the prime minister had been "a mistake."

Confindustria, with 115,000 members, has not taken sides in the election that will be held on April 9 and 10. But because the lobby backed Berlusconi five years ago the lack of an endorsement this time is being read by the news media and politicians as support for Berlusconi's challenger, Romano Prodi, a former prime minister and a former president of the European Commission.

While the upper echelons of Confindustria, including Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, chairman of both the lobby and the industrial giant Fiat, have supported Della Valle, Berlusconi contends he has the rank-and-file on his side.

For some observers, Berlusconi's outburst at the Confindustria meeting on Saturday was part of a careful plan to grab as much media attention as possible regardless of the circumstances. Earlier in the campaign, he won attention by likening himself to Jesus Christ, Napoleon, Moses and Winston Churchill.

"Berlusconi went to the Confindustria meeting with the idea of dividing the group from its leadership and he succeeded, and created problems for Montezemolo," said Gianfranco Pasquino a professor at the University of Bologna.

He added: "Without a doubt, the vast majority of Confindustria continues to favor Berlusconi and a center-right government, but there are also perhaps 20 or 30 important members of Confindustria, including Della Valle and probably Montezemolo, who would like to see him go."

The latest surveys indicate that more than 5 percent of the overall electorate favors Prodi over Berlusconi, who has continued to defend his economic record despite weak growth in Italy in the last five years.

"Berlsuconi has only himself to blame if businessmen have turned their back on him," Michele Salvati, a professor at the University of Milan, wrote in Corriere della Sera on Tuesday. "It can only mean that he has not been able to create the circumstances and provoke convictions in the businessmen to make them prefer his political offering over that of his adversaries."

Della Valle told Repubblica that he had believed in Berlusconi and backed him financially in the past.

But on Tuesday he said: "Then I saw him at work and I realized that I made a mistake. What worries me today is that many people in good faith might again believe in these phantom programs that do nothing to make Italy more competitive, create jobs for young people or improve pensions."

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