Berlusconi bungas while Italy burns

CONSTANTINE PALACE, STRELNA. Italian Prime Min...

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Il Cavaliere , Sylvio “bunga-bunga” Berlusconi is 75 years old, has a personal fortune of some $9billion, and has been Italy’s Prime Minister for longer than anyone else. He is clinging desperately to power as Italy slides towards a Greece-like crevice and it is not apparent as to why he bothers. Whereas the Greek debt is only about 4% of Eurozone debt, Italy’s debt is closer to 20%. Italy’s public debt in 2010 was 118.4% of GDP. The annual budget deficit was 4.6% of GDP. Italy’s public debt-to-GDP ratio is the second highest in the euro zone after Greece’s, while its debt in absolute terms, which stood at 1.84 trillion euros at the end of 2010, is second to Germany’s.

It might seem to be just a powerful politician in denial of the approaching flames when Berlusconi declares that “Life in Italy is good. The restaurants are full. It’s difficult to get a seat on a plane they’re so busy; holidays are all booked up”.

The Telgraph: Mr Berlusconi, 75, who is mired in the most serious threat to his political survival for years, has survived 51 confidence votes since being re-elected for the third time in 2008, but his luck seems to be finally running out.

He remained defiant yesterday, insisting that he still has the parliamentary majority necessary to pass the legislation. He dismissed “gossip” about his impending political demise and said Italy would be plunged into an even worse crisis if he resigned before the end of his mandate in 2013. The media mogul, whose approval ratings are at an all-time low of 22 per cent, insisted that he was fighting a “struggle for civilisation” on Italy’s behalf.

But his position looked ever more tenuous, with even allies and former loyalists saying that the only way that Italy can restore its international credibility and dampen market speculation on its rising debt is for Mr Berlusconi to step down and make way for an interim administration which would take the country towards new elections. …. 

When he continued with his line of denial just after the IMF had virtually declared Italy to be incompetent by putting the country on continuous watch, it seemed surreal. “We don’t want elections, we want to govern” he declared – and that maybe the key to his apparent intransigence. Berlusconi is currently facing four criminal trials – with charges ranging from having sex with a minor, abuse of office and perverting the course of justice – and all are due in court in the next few weeks. As long as he is the Prime Minister the charges can be stone-walled.

Berlusconi’s stubborn continuance has little to do with the state of the country and everything to do with his own comfort and staying out of jail. He just cannot afford to be without the protection of his office.

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