Italy’s Berlusconi Is Forced to Back Down in Parliament—Will He Now Bow Out?

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Tony Gentile / Reuters

Italian center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi leaves during a confidence vote at the Senate in Rome, Oct. 2, 2013.

On the surface, Italy‘s day ended as it began—with the country’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta in an uneasy, unstable alliance with the media mogul Silvio Berlusconi. In a last minute speech in the Italian senate on Oct. 2, Berlusconi, the sex scandal-plagued former prime minister, declared he would support the government in a vote of confidence, bringing to an end a political crisis he had been instrumental in creating. “We have decided, not without inner turmoil, to vote in confidence of the government,” said Berlusconi. The final vote in the senate was 235 to 70 in favor of the government.

But the hours leading up to the vote had revealed deep fissures in Berlusconi’s once dominant People of Liberty party. On Oct. 1, several of his supporters—including his political heir Angelo Alfano—had openly broken with Berlusconi, declaring they would go against his wishes and vote in favor of the government. Last week, nearly all the senators in his party had threatened to resign if the senate stripped Berlusconi of his seat, a requirement following the one-year sentence for tax fraud handed out to Berlusconi in August. On the morning of the vote, 25 members of his party declared they would defect, forming an independent parliamentary group, and support Letta, almost certainly providing the current prime minister with the votes he need to survive.

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Berlusconi’s last minute reversal—earlier he had sat and watched while one his closest allies excoriated the government—allowed him to escape what would have been one of the most significant political defeats of his career. It leaves Letta’s government strengthened, but not immune to further attempts to bring it down as it takes on the thankless, difficult challenge of reforming Italy’s enfeebled economy, while keeping fiscal discipline within limits set by the European Union.

For Berlusconi, the future remains equally uncertain. He is one of his country’s most formidable politicians, with a large personal war chest, control of much of the country’s media, and an uncanny ability to measure the Italian pulse. In the past, he has survived sex scandals and court convictions that would have ended the careers of less able politicians. Recent polls consistently put his party at or near the head of the pack. “Within the right, he’s still the only one that commands attention on the part of the public,” says Franco Pavoncello, a political scientist at Rome’s John Cabot University. “His capacity to dictate the line has been reduced. But he’ll remain the father figure in his party and serve as the motivation for the mobilization of his electorate.”

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On Oct. 4, a special Senate committee is expected to begin proceedings to strip Berlusconi of his senate seat. The conviction also includes a one-year sentence, and by mid-month, Berlusconi has to decide how to serve the sentence. His choices include house arrest—in which case his ability to lead his party would be severely curtailed—or, as he’s expected to choose, community service, most likely in a dignified office job or outreach program. “As long as Berlusconi is around, Italian politics will never be normal,” says Roberto D’Alimonte, a professor of political science at Rome’s LUISS University. “The real end will only come when he is defeated in the ballot box.” After Berlusconi had completed his speech, the cameras caught him sitting, with his hands covering his face, his shoulders lightly shaking. It wasn’t clear if he was crying or if he was laughing.

MOREJudges Reject Silvio Berlusconi’s Appeal, but His Political Appeal Endures

19 comments
喬強尼
喬強尼

For sex scandals, everyone are the same, especially a public figure ! So his political career should be dangerous. it only the time problem ~ :)

Lorraine Hansen
Lorraine Hansen

I just love Berlusconi-he lives in a fantasy world like most of us!

Donna Creaser
Donna Creaser

Ti amo italy' have been many times! Shame about the politicians & corruption always dragging the beautiful country down!

paulgeorges
paulgeorges

It's a shame that a convicted old siliconeted old  fascist  mood is not in jail .And  above is always  allowed to be  in highter political Italien  places  ,even convincted ! Middle class have to pay taxes but him .Middle class have to obey laws but him.Young people are escaping Italy to find out a job with a good wage .If in Italy the only prospect :is  to be a veline (kind of go-go TV girls dancer) . Big money and his wealth don't even avoid him senile dementia ,but such a kind of old Diva behaviour is destroying all country .

Andrea Donetti
Andrea Donetti

better an ex prime minister with sex scandals than only president wo wanna do only war against everyone everywhere

Enzo Pollono
Enzo Pollono

Worst than the 20 years of Mussolini. He deserves a Piazzale Loreto. )(

Kabba Lucci
Kabba Lucci

he'll bow out when the moons in the sky like a big pizza pie for all lol

Karl
Karl

Italy dumped the monarchy in 1946 because it was smeared with fascism. But the supporters of the red-dyed haired hog Big B are the best argument for finding any Savoy and trying to make him do the job the king of Belgium does, make an unworkable union of regions keep chugging. Italy is not ready for complete democracy, if it ever was. Southern Italy is more like Greece with the added ingredient of the Mafia. Northern Italy wants out of Italy and since slavery isn't an issue that Rome can use to conquer them they will eventually get their way.

paulgeorges
paulgeorges

@Andrea Donetti  Perhaps better none of them    isn'it ?