Ruth Dudley Edwards: People are not laughing when they vote for 'jokers'
Remorseless austerity creates despair and encourages people to vote in anger.
CENTRAL to Italians is their obsession with fare una bella figura (making a beautiful figure), which involves making an attractive impression through one's appearance, style, possessions, taste, manners, and so on. They also want their beautiful country to cut a fine figure abroad.
So things have come to a pretty pass when millions of Italians defiantly vote for men the world derides as clowns and jokers: Silvio Berlusconi and Beppe Grillo.
A few days ago, Giorgio Napolitano, the 87-year-old Italian president, was due to dine in Berlin with Social Democrat Peer Steinbrueck, who in September will challenge Angela Merkel for the chancellorship. The Italian election had so stunned Steinbrueck that he told a rally that he was "appalled that two clowns have won".