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How the mighty do fall but……don’t count him out yet! PDF Print E-mail
Oct 08, 2013 at 08:08 PM
ImageFormer Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has had a few very bad days, and things may soon be getting worse. Last week Berlusconi's attempt to bring down the coalition government in which his conservative party, the PdL, shares power with the left-of-center Democratic Party and another small right-of-center group failed miserably because of a mutiny led by his hand-picked number two, Angelino Alfano. Then, despite three months of bullying and threats of dire consequences by his party, a majority of the members of a Senate commission went ahead and voted to deprive him of his Senate seat. And now, the 77-year old communications magnate and politician is reportedly resigned to asking to serve his coming one-year sentence for tax fraud by performing socially useful activities or some other kind of community service under the supervision of a branch of the Italian judiciary. The alternative, given his age, would be house detention. But the rules of that kind of regime would severely limit the freedom of movement of a man who has dominated political life here for the last 20 years and who surely, in his heart of hearts,has no intention of giving up.

Berlusconi must decide by October 15 if he wants to ask for a community work assignment or else he will automatically be remanded to detention in his massive palace here in Rome, a block from Piazza Venezia, and where even his children would have to apply for permission to visit him. On one level, doing community service - with immigrants, drug offenders, terminally-ill patients, who knows - could be seen as humiliating for Berlusconi. But you can bet that he will know how to turn his new duties into a series of photo ops. And although he certainly will not have total freedom of movement, working in the social realm as opposed to being shut up in his home, however luxurious, will no doubt allow him to keep in touch with his political cronies because even if he will no longer be in the Italian parliament (and forfeiture of a role in public life is a part of his sentence), he is no doubt going to try to maintain his role as leader of his newly-fractious center-right party.

One of the reasons Berlusconi has been so upset about his exclusion from the Senate is that he will no longer benefit from the immunity that members of parliament enjoy and could, theoretically, now be arrested - and even jailed as a possible flight risk ? by magistrates dealing with any of the other criminal cases he is still involved in.

These include: the second stage of the now infamous Ruby case, (Berlusconi has already been convicted by a lower court of contributing to the prostitution of a minor and of unduly using his influence to get her released after an unrelated arrest for theft) in which a series of young women who testified in his favor are now being charged with perjury, possibly the result of witness tampering on his part, since they all admit to have had monthly stipends and other presents; a second case involving payoffs to members of the Senate who agreed to change their votes on a key issue, and; a trial of several men in the southern city of Bari who between 2008 and 2009 are said to have supplied Berlusconi with a series of "escorts" (read, prostitutes). In other words, life is not going to be easy for Mr. B. but anyone who is counting on him going quietly may be in for a surprise.


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