June 19, 2003


La Repubblica has a nice article on Berlusconi’s latest wheeze; getting legislation passed so as to render him immune from prosecution as long as he holds the office of prime minister. La Repubblica is a newspaper that isn’t precisely sympathetic to ‘Il Cavaliere,’ and sometimes has quite entertainingly nasty pieces on him. This time, however, all it has to do is let him speak for himself.

Clearly, Berlusconi has been having a difficult time of it from the magistrates. He speaks of his personal desire to “reorder the judicial system, so that Italians can be sure that they won’t be subjected to the Calvary that I have had to endure myself.” One may only presume that he’s identifying himself with the unrepentant thief who was crucified to Jesus’ left.

Berlusconi goes on to talk about those like himself, who “work to provide government, and to increase Italy’s importance on the international scene, in spite of those others who work to discredit her.” Readers with long memories may recall an Economist cartoon that summed up Berlusconi’s work on behalf of Italy’s international image quite nicely. It portrayed him at a European Council meeting, with a rotting fish on his head, so that his fellow prime ministers backed away as hastily as was compatible with a bare minimum of diplomatic decorum. This got matters exactly right, if the Euro-gossip is to be believed. Italy has always punched below its weight in the EU, but under Berlusconi it has been positively radioactive. Nobody wants to touch him.

Not that Berlusconi is entirely unique among European heads of government in using his position to avoid inconvenient legal inquiries. Jacques Chirac too has some tricky questions to answer as soon as he retires (if he doesn’t die in office in the meantime). But Chirac didn’t introduce a law specifically designed to grant himself immunity as Berlusconi did. And this isn’t the first time that Berlusconi has done it either. His government previously passed a law designed to invalidate some of the key evidence against him (unfortunately, the judges refused to go along). Italy’s international credibility is taking a considerable battering - sadly, there’s little likelihood that its anguish will end anytime soon.

Posted by Henry at June 19, 2003 08:24 PM | TrackBack

Ooh, good one about the thief.

Surely Berlusconi exceeds Chirac on two counts. Not just introducing laws to immunize himself from prosecution but getting involved in politics in the first place because jail was the likely alternative.

P.S. I‘ll get back to you about the goblins. Busy day.

Posted by: John Holbo at June 20, 2003 07:46 AM

But on the good side he did do the stunningly innovative move of suggesting that Italy’s parliment be changed from a proportional system.

Posted by: Factory at June 20, 2003 07:54 AM
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