This week it was announced that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will face three female judges when he stands trial in Milan on 6th April for using an underage prostitute and abuse of power. In 200 cities across the country, millions of Italians have protested against the leader, who is facing allegations of sex with 17 year old Moroccan belly dancer Karima el Mahroug. She goes by the stage name ‘Ruby the Heart Stealer’ and denies the claim she had sex with Mr Berlusconi. Previous reports accuse him of conducting ‘bunga bunga’ sex parties, with multiple girls offered cash rewards for stripping and dancing. Reportage highlighted the growing dissatisfaction with Berlusconi amongst Italians, his attempts to assuage the nation and how his alleged behaviour is a reflection of wider attitudes.
Writing in The Guardian, Nichi Vendola highlighted the misogyny in ‘berlusconismo’, the term used to refer to the sexism and macho attitudes in political and cultural systems: “It is yet another indication of what Berlusconi and a good part of the Italian political class on the right think about women and the law. In the world view promoted by ‘berlusconismo’, both have been objectified as the private property of those who have money and power.” He didn’t absolve the left of blame, though, adding : “We were asleep at the wheel while Berlusconi and his television stations transformed Italy.”
The Telegraph held Berlusconi’s tastes as the problem, rather than entrenched politcal systems: “Like Don Giovanni, his unrepentant love of women might prove to be his downfall.” Allusions to Mozart’s opera: a tad inappropriate?
The Times reported statistics from the left-leaning Italian daily La Repubblica, showing that 50 percent of respondents believe the accusations against Berlusconi, but 50 percent also think that he will not be punished if found guilty. For The Times online, James Bone commented: “Retirement may soon be approaching [for Berlusconi]— and he will be at liberty to indulge in ‘Bunga Bunga’ galore. Or perhaps not.”
Conflicing statistics were unearthed by the Daily Mail, who reported: “The scandal seems to have had little effect on Berlusconi’s popularity with just a five percent drop in his approval ratings and polls show that if an immediate general election were held he would win.”
The Italian constitutional court ruled last year that the Prime Minister would no longer be immune from prosecution. He is currently facing three other charges: two for fraud and one for bribing David Mills, the estranged husband of Labour politician Tessa Jowell.