Silvio's Teflon triumph: Berlusconi enjoys electoral success

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Despite the lurid headlines, nothing seems to stick to Italy's PM – as the latest elections demonstrate

Silvio Berlusconi can breathe again. After weeks of revelations about his private life – culminating in a prosecutor's decision to question dozens of young women on suspicion that they were paid to attend his parties – Italy's Prime Minister shrugged off the pressure yesterday, recording a convincing victory for his centre-right coalition in provincial and municipal elections across the country.

Beyond Italy's borders it may seem inconceivable that an elected national leader could comport himself like an ancient Roman emperor without facing grave political consequences. But within Italy, Mr Berlusconi's fallible humanity and the fact that he is not so obsessed with power play that he has no time for the sweeter things in life, are seen by many as points in his favour.

So while the centre-left celebrated their success in hanging on to much of its traditional "red zone" in central Italy, Mr Berlusconi's Freedom People Party managed to seize control of Milan and Venice. "If this is a victory for the opposition, we always want to lose like this," Mr Berlusconi crowed after results were in. "Before this provincial election, the Freedom People governed five million people [in the constituencies which voted]. Now it governs as many as 21 million."

In reality the result was more complex and nuanced, and according to Italy's top pollster, Renato Mannheimer, a steep rise in abstentions was the most important new development. Mr Berlusconi is also responsible for the fact that the popular opinion of politicians has sunk to a new low, 25 per cent of people associating politics with "disgust", and another 22 per cent with "anger".

And Mr Berlusconi is by no means out of the woods. Since his wife of 20 years, Veronica Lario, announced in early May that she was suing for divorce because of his endless womanising, the Italian Prime Minister has been engulfed by wave after wave of damaging revelations regarding his apparent obsession with surrounding himself with pouting lovelies.

One of the women invited to a party last November at Mr Berlusconi's home in a palazzo in central Rome, 42-year-old Patrizia D'Addario, said she was promised €2,000 (£1,700) to attend and when she saw the gaggle of women already present, said to herself: "But this is a harem." Photographs were released of two other women, Lucia Rossini and Barbara Montereale, supposedly taken by themselves in the bathroom in Mr Berlusconi's apartment. And now as many as 30 women invited to such events, many of them from eastern Europe, are being questioned by prosecutors as part of an investigation into the alleged procuring of prostitutes for these parties, while a business acquaintance of Mr Berlusconi, Giampaolo Tarantini, who Ms D'Addario said had paid her for attending the party, is also to be questioned in the same investigation. Mr Tarantini has denied the accusations, but publicly apologised to Mr Berlusconi for the embarrassment the affair had caused.

Yesterday, in an interview published in La Famiglia Cristiana, Italy's best-selling weekly, whose editor says he has received "many angry letters" about the Prime Minister's peccadilloes, Mr Berlusconi attempted to draw a line under his troubles. He claimed that Ms D'Addario had been given "a very precise and well-compensated mandate" to discredit him, but denied flatly that he had paid any of the women. "I have never paid a woman," he declared. "I have never understood what satisfaction there would be if not in the satisfaction of conquest... There is nothing in my private life for which I must apologise."

But the editor of the magazine thought otherwise. "It's gone beyond the limits of decency," Antonio Sciortino wrote of the affair in the magazine. "One cannot ignore the moral emergency, one cannot pretend that nothing has happened. Christians – as the letters from readers demonstrate – are appalled by this climate of moral decadence."

Taken together with recent criticism in the columns of L'Avvenire and by the Archbishop of Lanciano-Ortona, these words must send alarm bells ringing in the Berlusconi camp. No Italian politician with their wits about them likes to alienate the Catholic vote. So the scandal continues to fester, though Mr Berlusconi will not face another electoral test until next year. And already the accusations against him have obliged him to abandon or at least downplay his ambitions for the highest office in the land, that of president. "I have no interest in being president," he replied flatly when questioned about it in recent days.

This week three academics at Italian universities have gathered "hundreds" of signatures for a letter to the wives of G8 leaders due to arrive in Italy next month for the G8 summit, urging them to boycott the event because of "the way in which prime minister Silvio Berlusconi treats women both in public and in private".

The proximity of the scandal to the summit revives unpleasant memories for Mr Berlusconi: at a summit in 1994, during his first term as PM, he was served with legal papers alleging corruption. Soon afterwards he resigned.

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people

Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Norwegian Speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 per annum + competitive OTE: SThree: Progressive in Manchester is seeki...

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Telecoms Engineer - Telecoms Administrator - London - £26,000

£26000 per annum + 25 days holiday & further benefits: Ashdown Group: Telecomm...

Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking a confident...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London