Berlusconi's charisma wrecked by sex probe

Agencies via China Daily, January 21, 2011

Female vote risk

A former beauty queen tells a party organiser, now accused of abetting prostitution, how she will give Berlusconi "a private health visit", dressed in nurse's white suspenders and a doctor's coat with nothing underneath, the transcripts show.

Another woman laughs as she reads out a letter to Berlusconi calling him "love", before asking him for more money. And another says that if he reduces the frequency of his parties "we'd better start stealing stuff from the house".

Berlusconi, who denies any wrongdoing, has to some extent ridden out previous sex scandals by portraying himself as a lovable rogue, but for most Italians being "fesso" (stupid) is less forgiveable than having a roving eye and being unfaithful.

Davi said the key risk for the media tycoon is that for the first time he will lose the backing of women, a traditional bedrock of his support, on a large scale.

"They could overlook the stories of his affairs with young girls, but they'll find it much harder to stomach this harem that is emerging, that is far more debasing to women."

Berlusconi can be expected to portray himself as a victim of people who exploited his generosity, but even this creates a lamentable image far removed from the figure of strength that should be associated with a leader.

The woman at the centre of the probe, a Moroccan night-club dancer who was just 17 when she was allegedly paid to have sex with Berlusconi, paints the same sad picture.

"I don't think he can be very happy. I think he is someone who suffers a lot from loneliness," she told Repubblica.

Ominously, the latest scandal also comes at a time when he is far more politically vulnerable than before, as he no longer enjoys a secure parliamentary majority following a split with former ally Gianfranco Fini.

The government was already precarious, with many commentators expecting it to fall in the spring.

Another sign of changing attitudes towards Berlusconi came at the end of a popular political affairs programme on Tuesday evening, when the anchorman announced that the prime minister had phoned in to intervene but he had refused the call.

He said Berlusconi was welcome to appear on the show at any time but could not expect to intervene on his own terms. Berlusconi has a history of calling in to such shows and is not accustomed to having his attempted interventions declined.

   Previous   1   2