Italy seeks leaders with less

Marketplace Staff May 8, 2007


SCOTT JAGOW: In Italy, business and politics go together like red wine and linguini, but the current government wants that to change. It’s trying to push through a law that would keep certain wealthy business people from holding office. Megan Williams reports from Rome.

MEGAN WILLIAMS: The law would adopt the American system of blind trust. Elected officials worth more than $18 million would have to hand over control of their businesses to trustees.

The center-right opposition calls the bill a personal vendetta against its billionaire leader and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi is worth about $12 billion and has huge media interests. In 2004 he passed a law that allowed him to remain in power and keep his companies.

Italy expert Francis X. Rocca says the conflict-of-interest law is long overdue, though he doubts Berlusconi’s power days are over.

FRANCIS X. ROCCA: I think the center-left must look at Berlusconi the way that James Bond regarded Blofeld. He just keeps slipping away. I wonder if they do pass this if it’s really going to stop him.

But even that’s not a sure thing. The center-left government has a slim majority in the Senate and has already fallen once.

In Rome, I’m Megan Williams for Marketplace.

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