Berlusconi is gone – but not in the manner we anticipated

The real surprise is the muted manner in which his political career has come to a close.

Alex Fusco
Monday 14 November 2011 11:40 GMT
Silvio Berlusconi looking tired at the G20 Summit
Silvio Berlusconi looking tired at the G20 Summit (Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Alex is an English literature and creative writing student at the University of Warwick.

In the end, despite a myriad of sins, it was a routine parliamentary ballot that tore Berlusconi's coalition apart. A vote on his austerity package proved a pyrrhic victory, as he failed to gain a majority in the lower house of parliament. The Italian Prime Minister has stepped down after pushing through a package of economic reforms demanded by the European Union to prevent Italy sliding into the abyss. After nearly two decades at the summit of Italian politics, Berlusconi, pictured, has "retired".

The real surprise is not that he has finally left, but the muted manner in which his pantomime political career has come to a close. The undisputed clown of international politics has finally been forced out of the circus, but it was not amidst an inferno of scandal, as would have befitted his time as premier. Neither was he led out of office in handcuffs.

A born survivor, Berlusconi has endured a plethora of controversy that would have brought any other European leader to their knees. Though he arrived as a fresh face on the political scene in the aftermath of the most explosive corruption storm ever to befall Italy, his hands have undoubtedly become dirtied. Allegations of graft have plagued his political career from the outset, and though he has never been convicted, it is only a clever concoction of legal manoeuvres and delaying tactics that have spared him the ignominy of a guilty verdict. He is currently facing two corruption charges, yet until last week, like a spider spinning a web that entangles everyone except himself, Berlusconi remained unperturbed by the charges against him.

Sex scandals have become the norm during the Berlusconi era, and it is futile, even tedious, to discuss them further. It would be inconceivable to imagine Cameron being able to retain his position were he on trial for something as sordid as paying for sex with an under-age prostitute, but Berlusconi has held firm.

Ultimately though, it was not his lurid private life that brought about his downfall, but the affairs of state; though during his tenure the dividing line often became blurred, today the distinction couldn't be more apparent.

The various storms that swirl around his private life have merged with the dark clouds of the eurozone economic crisis; it appears politicians from all sides have decided that, rather than ride out this tempest, the time has come for Il Cavaliere to dismount.

His mantle will in all likelihood be passed to the politically neutral Mario Monti, whose task it will be to revive the crumbling economy and rebuild Italy's tattered international reputation.

Though both these objectives appear Herculean, they are infinitely more achievable without the imperious yet noxious presence of Silvio Berlusconi.

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