The casual observer could be forgiven for wondering whatever happened to the Italian election. For a country which prides itself on the “colourful” antics of its political class, this year the vote was devoid of spectacle and celebration, which photographers prey upon. Silvio Berlusconi won the prime minister’s post after Walter Veltroni conceded defeat in a deadpan speech in Rome, and the best Silvio could do was telephone a few TV stations to say he was “moved”. I pleaded with our staff photographers to provide reaction pictures from party supporters either on the winning or losing side, but it was the equivalent of an emotional dustbowl in the streets of Rome. The only things missing were tumbleweeds blowing through the streets like in a Spaghetti Western. I’ve seen countless election campaigns in my career but this goes into the books as the dullest one… As a colleague noted, due to the stagnant economy this was probably a good election to lose, which may explain the lack of fanfare.
On the plus side, freelance photographers will be happy at the result. Whether or not one supports him, one thing is as sure as the sun rises — Silvio Berlusconi sells photos. Freelancers tell me that their incomes go up significantly during a Berlusconi term, now his third, because he creates news. The grey outgoing prime minister, Romano Prodi, failed to generate the same amount of editorial interest as his predecessor. Now, although the Italian economy may be in the doldrums, at least some of my colleagues can benefit.