Berlusconi Booted From Italian Senate

Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi, embattled former prime minister of Italy.

After months of made-up procedural delays and manufactured political melodramatics, Silvio Berlusconi was forced to have to face the inevitable.  Italy’s senate voted to boot Berlusconi from their governing body on Wednesday.

Before the vote, Italian senators stood up and gave speeches either in defense or condemnation of  Berlusconi, who had once been Italy’s prime minister. Mr. Berlusconi chose to respond by holding a rally outdoors in central Rome.  During that rally, a huge screen was displayed. The screen showed a split screen showdown. One one side was the former prime minister claiming to be a victim and pledging to continue being a political voice. On the other side was the Italian senate finishing their speeches.

After several votes and a day filled with passion filled arguments, the expulsion finally came.  After the final count, there was a complete silence in the senate chambers.

The 77 year old former Italian prime minister now faces some harsh realities. He is now without the benefit of elective office for the first time in close to twenty years. In addition, he has lost a special type of immunity that is usually given to lawmakers.

With other charges pending, along with the possibility of more to come, Berlusconi faces a vulnerability that would seem unfamiliar to him. In his days as prime minister, there were times when he seemed untouchable as he dodged responsibility in several sex and corruption scandals.

In addition to being booted from the Italian senate, Berlusconi is also scheduled to start performing community service for a period of one year as a result of a tax fraud conviction.  Moreover, a court in Milan has forbid Berlusconi from seeking any public office for two years.  The man who once dominated the Italian political scene is now sharply reduced in both influence and respect.

Before the senate voted, Berlusconi appeared at his rally and voiced his usual complaints against the Italian leaders, particularly blaming irresponsible magistrates for his legal woes. He called it a bitter day and said that all of Italy should mourn the death of democracy. At the rally, Berlusconi had bused in several supporters from around the country. Many of them had talked to members of the press saying that there were members of parliament who were worse criminals than the former prime minister. Some questioned what Italy would be without Berlusconi’s leadership.

Last July, Berlusconi’s influence as leader of one of Italy’s most powerful political movements was severely damaged as the country’s highest judicial body upheld a prison sentence against him for tax fraud.  His own party began to split which made it harder to avoid the removal from the senate.

Berlusconi had tried to form a new political party named “Forza Italia” (Go Italy) but his longtime ally, Angelino Alfano, announced to the nation that he and other former advisors would not be joining. Instead, Alfano formed a new political party (the New Center-Right). This party drew away several former Berlusconi supporters and made it harder for him to beat a vote for expulsion.

In spite of his being booted from the Italian senate, along with a plethora of other troubles, attorneys for Berlusconi have said that it is highly unlikely that he could face an arrest over other legal issues that have defined his political legacy.

By Rick Hope

New York Times

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