Berlusconi hopes to wriggle away to fight another day – one more time
- Branko Brkic
- 06 Oct 2009 03:44 (South Africa)
Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is in the dock yet again as Italy’s Constitutional Court is considering whether or not to remove his immunity from prosecution on corruption charges.
Earlier this year, Berlusconi has been pursued by increasingly lurid sex scandals. Now he must fend off a weekend ruling that his media holding company must pay 750 million euros to a rival media group. (In Saturday’s decision, the court said Berlusconi as “co-responsible” for bribing a judge.) Pugnacious to the end, he insists he’ll be in office until his term runs out. “Nothing can make us betray the mandate entrusted to us by the Italian people,” he said…This man’s saga could put an opera like “Rigoletto” to shame.
But the criminal cases involving the media tycoon could become active as well if the Constitutional Court's judges overturn the law he pushed through parliament in June 2003, just six weeks after he came roaring back into office. Among others, these include paying $600,000 to his tax attorney for false testimony in yet earlier trials. The current law gives immunity to incumbents in Italy's four top political jobs -- prime minister, president and the speakers of the two houses of parliament but some judges say this violates the principle of equality before the law.
Lawyers for Berlusconi stressed in response that he enjoys immunity only while in office, and that his duties as prime minister distinguish him from other citizens. Berlusconi's battles with the law, have, over the years, included charges of corruption, tax fraud, false accounting and illegally financing political parties but, amazingly, he has never been definitively convicted of any of this.
But wait, there’s more: Berlusconi's scandals include a relationship with an 18-year-old aspiring model -- leading his wife to sue for divorce –as well as claims he spent a night with a call-girl. But, these might well become the least of his problems. “The risk is that the shadow of a conviction weighs far heavier than his sexual escapades, which have mostly made his voters laugh,” said political scientist Marco Tarchi.
In a cartoon in Tuesday's La Republica daily - a thorn in the premier's side for years - one character says: “Berlusconi has the same problem with verdicts as he does with women.” Another agrees: “If they aren't bought they aren't nice to him.” TDM wonders, has he finally run into a problem he can't buy his way out from under?
By Brooks Spector