LA DOLCE VITA – It is a historical fact little remarked upon nowadays, but throughout the 90s, the 00s, and the 10s, Italy has been extensively testing a Donald Trump prototype. His name was Silvio Berlusconi. The results have been mixed, but then again what isn’t in Italy? The whole country is a beautiful mess.

It’s hard to believe that while the American MAGA version has been in place now for over a year, the Italians are still continuing their trials (and tribulations) of Berlusconi 4.0 (or is it now 5.0?):

Italians are preparing to vote Sunday in an election that pits several shades of populists against the mainstream and which may only succeed in further clouding the political landscape.

The anti-establishment Five Star Movement was on track to be the biggest single party when a polling blackout began on Feb. 17, though only Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition was within reach of an outright majority. The 81-year-old media mogul has engineered a shock comeback, but only by joining forces with another populist group, the euroskeptic League, which is challenging his dominance of the Italian right.

The most likely outcome is a hung parliament, which would trigger an extended period of horsetrading among the parties. Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio, 31, has vowed not to seek a coalition deal, but appealed to rivals to back him if his party wins the most votes.

“Five Star Movement is transforming the political landscape,” said Roberto D’Alimonte, a political science professor at Rome’s Luiss University. “If the center-right doesn’t get a majority, a lot will depend on whether Five Star opens up to the idea of a coalition.”

Of all the broken and corrupt political systems in Europe, Italy’s been always perhaps the most broken and the most corrupt. Sadly, after Berlusconi 1.0 had finally destroyed the Christian Democrat/Social Democrat post-war duopoly in the early 90s, no leader, centre-right, populist, new left, technocrat, or other, has been able to (or even willing to) seriously start addressing the big structural problems of the Italian governance, economy, and society. And so, here we are again, in 2018, with an 81-year old (!) Berlusconi competing with the new wave of European populism for yet another vote which is unlikely to change anything for the country itself, as it stumbles ahead, there by for the grace of God another Greece, but with more style and more attractive people.