Is Silvio Berlusconi Gone for Good?

With the Italian Senate set to determine whether Berlusconi will be expelled from Parliament, the former prime minister’s political career may be finally coming to a decisive close. This predicament comes as a result of Berlusconi’s recent tax fraud conviction, where in early 2013, an Italian court found Berlusconi guilty of tax evasion, punishing him with one year of prison as well as a ban from public office whose duration a Milan appeals court still has to determine. In addition to this ban on public office, he faces losing his seat because of a probity law that excludes convicted lawmakers from Parliament. The outcome of these deliberations may, in fact, permanently end the former prime minister’s long-drawn and turbulent political career. But one question arises – why did it last so long in the first place?

Berlusconi, seen here on trial, faces a ban from public office as a result of his convictions. By Presidenza della Repubblica.

First off, Berlusconi’s contagious charisma has certainly made him well known throughout the Italian population. In fact, Nina de Santos, a London-based CNN news anchor and correspondent, said regarding the former Prime Minister’s personality, “Berlusconi’s confidence and swagger were contagious.” No doubt this personality has allowed him to garner many loyal supporters, yet his flagrant disregard for the rules and failure to ultimately solve Italy’s economic crisis has also inspired many critics.

This fact that a significant portion of Italians are still on Berlusconi’s side comes as a surprise however, considering the sheer magnitude of his criminal behavior. Berlusconi’s wide repertoire of criminal acts includes mafia collusion, false accounting, tax fraud, corruption, and bribery of police officers and judges. But Berlusconi’s most well known scandal is probably that he was found guilty of cavorting with an underage call girl. In addition to this conviction, Berlusconi was also found guilty of abusing his powers in an ensuing cover-up where he tried to persuade the police to release the girl. Scandals like this one have incited anger and violent backlash among the Italian population. For example, in 2009, the politician suffered a fractured nose and two broken teeth when a man threw a miniature statue at his face. Other opponents of Berlusconi express their disapproval through less drastic means. For instance, Nicoletta Dentico, founder of the women’s movement Se Non Ora Quando (If Not Now When) said, “Nowhere else in the world would a prime minister who is enveloped in these types of scandals remain in place.”

Apart from his history of criminal allegations, Berlusconi’s many jokes, gestures, and gaffes, most of them inappropriate, have inspired much controversy. The first one occurred in 2003 during an interview with Nicholas Farrell, then editor of The Spectator, where Berlusconi claimed that Mussolini “had been a benign dictator who did not murder opponents but sent them ‘on holiday’.” On January 27, Berlusconi re-iterated this belief, saying that Mussolini had done the right thing in siding with Hitler. In addition, in March 2006, Berlusconi alleged that Chinese communists under Mao Zedong had “boiled [children] to fertilize the fields.” His political opponent at that time, Romano Prodi, criticized him for offending the Chinese people and called his comments unthinkable. Furthermore, two days after the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, Berlusconi suggested that people left homeless should view their experience as a camping weekend. At a tent camp on the outskirts of L’Aquila housing some of the more than 30,000 people who lost their homes during the 2009 earthquake, he said to an African priest: “you have a nice tan.” The list of deplorable actions that Berlusconi has committed, like the ones mentioned above, goes on and on.

In conclusion, the end of Berlusconi’s political career will come as a welcome sight to the countless Italians who believe he has done irreparable damage to their nation’s reputation and devastated its economy. One can only hope that Italy’s future will be brighter than its past and that it will be able to recover from the harm caused by a politician whose views were described by Nina de Santos as “vacuous, outdated and inappropriate.”


Featured image by European People’s Party.

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