Italy is on tenterhooks as it waits to see if former premier Silvio Berlusconi will finally get a definitive criminal conviction for tax fraud today.
A strange hush has descended on the country. As the cities empty in the baking mid-summer heat, even the epicentre of Italy’s most eagerly anticipated legal verdict of recent times is oddly quiet.
Outside Rome’s Supreme Court of Cassation, which is due to rule by Friday, there are none of the usual pro-Berlusconi “supporters” – some allegedly paid €10 (£8.70) to stand outside and holler their appreciation of the “Dear Leader”.
Even the perma-tanned one has kept his mouth closed for several days, apart from low-key remarks that he’ll take any punishment like a man. The billionaire mogul has been told by his lawyers to put a sock in it so as not to irritate the judges.
But clues as to what would happen exactly were he found guilty, given community service and banned from public office were fairly evident. The ghastly Berlusconi-stooge and MP Daniela Santanchè tweeted on Thursday, without a hint of irony, that Friday “could be the last day of democracy”.
So were he convicted, we can expect large-scale political protest led by Ms Santanchè and the rest of the “Amazons”, the over-promoted female parliamentarians in high heels who act as Mr Berlusconi’s political bodyguard – rather like the all-female security employed by his old pal Colonel Gaddafi.
But Gadaffi’s past caught up with him, anyway. And more than a few Italians are hoping the same will happen to Mr Berlusconi this week.