As Berlusconi Heals, Italy's Political Discord Festers The assault last weekend on Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi left him with facial wounds and has inflamed Italy's already polarized political climate. The premier's supporters say Berlusconi's critics incited the attack. The opposition says Berlusconi and his allies are to blame for the uncivil political climate.
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As Berlusconi Heals, Italy's Political Discord Festers

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As Berlusconi Heals, Italy's Political Discord Festers

As Berlusconi Heals, Italy's Political Discord Festers

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

But as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, Berlusconi's aides and supporters are casting blame more widely.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

POGGIOLI: Thank god Silvio exists, one elderly man says. Berlusconi is a god, says another - adding - those who oppose him are all communists. The attack has inflamed Italy's already polarized political climate. TV talk shows have become chaotic shouting matches. Rather than question poor security, his supporters are pitting the blame elsewhere. Maurizio Belpietro, editor of the openly pro- Berlusconi daily Libero, expressed disdain for the prime minister's critics.

MAURIZIO BELPIETRO: (Through Translator) For years, we've witnessed a lynching campaign against Berlusconi, with unbelievable insults. They're using violence in words and actions to try to overthrow him.

POGGIOLI: In a heated parliamentary debate, Fabrizio Cicchitto, one of the leaders of Berlusconi's PDL party went further, naming names, including that of a reporter who recently republished a book about Berlusconi's alleged links with the Mafia.

FABRIZIO CICCHITTO: (Through Translator) This campaign was waged by the newspapers La Repubblica and Il Fatto, by a certain TV talk show and by a terrorist journalist named Marco Travaglio, as well as by some magistrates investigating links between the Mafia and politicians who demonize Berlusconi.

POGGIOLI: Despite opposition criticism, the government is vowing to go ahead with new legislation that would give the prime minister immunity from prosecution while in office. If passed, two current corruption trials against Berlusconi would be suspended. In the wake of the attack, the government also plans to restrict public gatherings and introduce stricter controls on freedom of speech. It has announced a bill that would allow magistrates to shut down Web sites that instigate violence. Opposition member of Parliament Leoluca Orlando says Italy's constitutional framework is being undermined.

LEOLUCA ORLANDO: (Through Translator) We're witnessing the mortification of Parliament, intolerance for the opposition, the intermingling of public and private and of business and politics. These are all signs of a subversive project.

POGGIOLI: Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome.

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