The 50-plus votes and allegations that failed to sink Berlusconi

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has survived more than 50 no-confidence votes in his political career, surviving yet another at least implicit one on Tuesday. But he is still headed out the door, he says. Over the years, charges of corruption, accusations of soliciting underage prostitutes, and alleged involvement with the mafia were not enough to sink the indomitable Mr. Berlusconi – but charges of mishandling the economic crisis seem to have done it. Here’s a look at the many things that would have taken down many other world leaders.

Temp Headline Image
In this July 2011 file photo, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi votes over a crucial euro 70 billion ($99 billion) austerity package aimed at convincing investors that the eurozone’s third-largest economy won’t be swept into the debt crisis, at the lower house of parliament, in Rome.
(Andrew Medichini/AP/File)


By

Ariel ZirulnickStaff writer

posted November 9, 2011 at 3:14 pm EST

Prostitution and involvement with underage women

List Item Image
A man unwraps a painting called ‘Silvio & Ruby’ made with plastic bags and scotch tape by Israeli artist Dodi Reifenberg at the Edward Cutler gallery in Milan, Italy, April 6. In 2010, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was put under investigation for ‘underage prostitution’ and ‘abuse of power,’ both for interactions with Karima ‘Ruby’ El Mahroug, who was 17 at the time.
(Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters)

Berlusconi’s frank comments about enjoying women’s company would be enough to sink some politicians, but not him. Nor were accusations of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor, nor were accusations of using prostitutes.

In 2009, rumors about a relationship with a then-17-year-old woman surfaced and garnered widespread national attention. No legal charges were brought, and the furor faded. 

Then, in 2010, he was put under investigation for “underage prostitution” and “abuse of power,” both for interactions with Karima “Ruby” El Mahroug, who was 17 at the time. While prostitution is legal in Italy and the age for sexual consent is 14, aiding underage prostitution is a crime. Berlusconi was accused of paying the woman for sexual services before she turned 18. The trial began in 2011

He was also accused of intervening on Ms. Mahroug’s behalf to get her out of jail after she was arrested for petty theft, allegedly calling a prosecutor to release her immediately.

Berlusconi tried to pass a law that would grant government ministers immunity from being put on trial, but it was defeated in a national referendum, allowing him to be prosecuted for the prostitution charges and a series of corruption charges, The Christian Science Monitor reported in June. As the case unfolded, his party retained the highest approval rating in the country and his personal approval declined, but still remained at 35 percent.

Corruption

Berlusconi has not only faced repeated corruption and fraud accusations, but has been accused of manipulating the justice system to duck them – and yet his party still remained at the top. In December 2010, Berlusconi survived a no-confidence vote prompted by the justice system charges – and his party still had a plurality of support after the vote, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

He also attempted to evade corruption trials by limiting the duration of trials to six years, which would have brought an end to two corruption trials.

In the most notorious corruption case, Berlusconi is accused of paying $600,000 in bribes to a former tax accountant named David Mills in exchange for false testimony in court for two other trials.

Mafia charges

Berlusconi has never stood trial for any of the accusations that he has mafia ties, but a party member was sentenced to jail time as a result.

A senator in Berlusconi’s party, Marcello Dell’Utri, was put on trial a decade ago based on accusations of using a Berlusconi-related advertising business to launder mafia money. A former mafia member who became a witness for the state said that Berlusconi used to “be in touch” with top mafia boss Stefano Bontade, BBC reports. 

According to a timeline from British newspaper The Telegraph, mafia allegations against Berlusconi go back to the 1970s. Some claimed that the mafia invested heavily in Berlusconi’s early business ventures. In 1993, a mafia turncoat said that in 1992, the year before Berlusconi first became prime minister, he struck a deal with Cosa Nostra to provide favors – including support for the mafia’s deadly bombings in Italy in 1993 – in exchange for the mafia’s political backing. Berlusconi’s spokesman denied the claims, saying that the mafia was smearing Berlusconi in revenge for his government’s crackdown on crime.

The economy

List Item Image
In this July 2011 file photo, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi votes over a crucial euro 70 billion ($99 billion) austerity package aimed at convincing investors that the eurozone’s third-largest economy won’t be swept into the debt crisis, at the lower house of parliament, in Rome.
(Andrew Medichini/AP/File)

The economy is what seems to have finally sunk Berlusconi. Italians who could accept allegations of mafia ties, aiding and abetting prostitution, and buying off politicians couldn’t accept the prospect of further inaction on the debt crisis.

Ironically, Berlusconi used the economy as an argument for why he should be kept in office as he prepared to face a no-confidence vote in December 2010, according to a Monitor report.

In a last-minute appeal to wavering MPs, Berlusconi said today that it would be “folly” to precipitate a political crisis at a time when Italy is facing the sort of economic pressures that have created chaos in countries like Greece and Ireland. “I ask you … to reflect on the political folly that opening a crisis without visible and credible solutions would be today.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s