Silvio Berlusconi is not a happy man. The influence of the tanned media magnate and former prime minister of Italy finally appears to be fading away.
First of all, back in late 2011, Mr Berlusconi was shoved aside upon fears that Italy might have defaulted on its huge national debt. While Mr Berlusconi played down his ousting at the time claiming he stood aside as an act of responsibility, it was the first sign to Italy that his political career was coming to an end.
More humiliation was to follow for Mr Berlusconi. He was found guilty of tax fraud which led to him being kicked out of Italy’s parliament and to the stripping of his beloved Cavalier title. Then there was the tea making community service punishment dished out to Mr Berlusconi for his tax fraud conviction. Another rather embarrassing consequence of the tax fraud conviction was the confiscation of his passport. No trips to Russia to party with Putin.
Following his for tax fraud guilty finding, Mr Berlusconi kicked up a huge fuss over what he regarded as a wrongful conviction and launched several vociferous attacks on Italy’s judiciary. Eventually he was warned that if he didn’t stop demeaning Italy’s judges in public, he’d find himself back in court, not that he’s ever really been out of it.
Bunga Bunga Berlusconi
There was also the sordid bunga bunga case. Somehow, Mr Berlusconi managed to avoid conviction for his shenanigans involving an under-age prostitute although the case is not done and dusted just yet.
Prosecutors may still appeal Silvio Berlusconi’s acquittal though when or if this might take place is unknown. The other case which is still running is that concerning Mr Berlusconi’s alleged bribery of Senator Sergio De Gregorio who admitted accepting a bribe. The Berlusconi – De Gregorio bribery case appears to have stalled for now. Though De Gregorio himself has now been found guilty of accepting a bribe, Mr Berlusconi has yet to be found guilty of offering one.
Mr Berlusconi is also suspected of having paid money in return for silence in the case involving a person who supplied him with escorts.
To cut a long story short, Silvio Berlusconi is up to his eyeballs in legal wrangles but this has not convinced him to call it a day and hand over leadership of his Forza Italia party to someone else. He even managed to rebuild his public image by selling himself as a kind of elder-statesman and had been using this new standing to tinker in Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s reform program for Italy. For a while, Mr Renzi was happy to play Silvio Berlusconi’s little game. Mr Renzi, at the time, needed the votes Mr Berlusconi could generate.
The Berlusconi Pact
Guaranteeing the votes for Mr Renzi was the mysterious Nazareno pact which existed between himself and Mr Berlusconi. Supposedly, this pact was an agreement whereby Mr Berlusconi offered the support of his party to Mr Renzi so he could push reforms through.
As well as the Nazareno pact, Silvio Berlusconi allowed Mr Renzi to use his television channels to generate popular support – exactly as Berlusconi himself used to do. Berlusconi-friendly newspapers had also been treating Mr Renzi very gently. It was almost as if Mr Berlusconi wanted to keep Mr Renzi sweet. But why?
The Devil in the Details
The precise details of the Nazareno pact were not fully known and many Machiavellian-minded Italians postulate that there are both public and private clauses one of which might involve quietly forgetting Mr Berlusconi’s legal woes, offering him a pardon for his tax fraud conviction thus allowing him to re-enter politics.
Italy’s ‘behindologists‘ (similar to the kind of people who see black helicopters) had been having a field day trying to figure out the hidden details of the Nazareno pact.
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The question is, though, just what benefits did the Nazareno pact offer to Silvio Berlusconi? On the face of it, there were no direct benefits hence the amount speculation of the secret unwritten, maybe, clauses of the pact.
Mr Berlusconi’s acquittal at appeal in the Ruby bunga bunga case smacked of strings being pulled in Mr Berlusconi’s favour. A product of the Nazareno pact? Maybe.
Save Berlusconi, Maybe
On top of this, more recently, there has been the as yet inconclusive government decree which included a innocuous looking clause added at the very last minute which may have allowed Mr Berlusconi’s legal eagles to quash their client’s tax fraud conviction. If this were to happen, and there’s a remote possibility it still might, Mr Berlusconi would be able to re-enter politics in Italy. He could also re-claim his seat in Italy’s senate and, presumably, his title of Cavalier. Then, in a few years time, Mr Berlusconi could propose himself as a candidate for the presidency of Italy.
Behind the little clause lay the hands of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who admitted as much. What has come to be known as the Save Silvio Decree still hangs in the balance. If Silvio Berlusconi continues to play nice, the decree may become law, but if he does not, it won’t. Sounds a little like blackmail, doesn’t it? Well, Silvio Berlusconi with his many legal woes has left himself compromised. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave. When first we practice to deceive.”, is the old adage which springs to mind.
Berlusconi Beholden to Renzi
To all intents and purposes, Mr Renzi has Mr Berlusconi wrapped around his little finger, and Mr Berlusconi, it seems, can do little to wriggle his way out of the situation aside from play ball with Mr Renzi in the hope that certain laws are passed which, of course, they won’t be until Mr Renzi has passed all the reforms he wants.
Mattarella – Renzi, Won. Berlusconi, Zero.
This brings us to now. As you may know, Italy now has a new president, one Sergio Mattarella.
Reputedly, Mattarella is no friend of Mr Berlusconi and was certainly not the person Mr Berlusconi would have chosen for the position. Indeed, following the appointment of President Mattarella, Italy’s press reported that the Nazareno pact may as well have been torn up and it looks as if this is the case.
Mr Berlusconi and his mob claimed the election of a mutually acceptable president of Italy was part of the Nazareno pact. Mr Renzi’s people claimed it was not.
The election of Mr Mattarella was an enormous victory for Matteo Renzi and a massive defeat for Silvio Berlusconi. Mr Renzi knows this. By winning the presidential election issue, Matteo Renzi has shown to one and all that he no longer needs Mr Berlusconi’s goodwill, votes, or the Nazareno pact.
A wounded Mr Berlusconi recently appeared on television, via telephone, bleating that Italy is no longer a true democracy. Reading between the lines, Mr Berlusconi is not at all happy to have been outmanoeuvred by Mr Renzi.
Digging even more deeply into the spaces between the lines (after a while in Italy, you too will become a behindologist), Mr Berlusconi’s laments could be read as a thinly veiled threat in that if Italy’s Prime Minister does not fulfil his promises, whatever they may have been, then a little mud may be slung in his direction.
While this could happen, the risk for Silvio Berlusconi is that his semi-dormant court cases could suddenly be reactivated and that’s not to mention new laws which could damage Mr Berlusconi and his family’s extensive business interests. One such law is already being mooted.
After the election of Mattarella as Italy’s new president, others are sensing that Mr Berlusconi has most probably reached the end of the line and are lining up to jump in bed with the new undisputed King of Italian politics – Matteo Renzi.
As for Italy’s future, the ball’s now firmly in Matteo Renzi’s court. Will he hit it in the right direction? We shall see.