Boastful Berlusconi buys off party rebels

Boastful Berlusconi buys off party rebels


According to newspaper La Repubblica, as the meeting was about to break up, Italy’s prime minister, who recently admitted he was “no saint”, asked his followers: “Have you heard the latest one about La D’Addario?” Egged on by their denials, he is reported to have added: “She says Berlusconi may not, in fact, be a saint. But he fucks like a god!”
As millions of Italians on Saturday packed for their holidays and prepared to forget politics till the autumn, their endlessly controversial leader never looked less like resigning. He could, of course, fall to new revelations.

But if a 72-year-old married grandfather can get away with refusing to explain his relationship with a girl of 18 and then survive the dissemination of a recording in which he purportedly discusses orgasms and masturbation while in bed with a prostitute, it may be wondered what could possibly bring him down.

On Thursday, Italians were given a dramatic reminder that the investigation that brought to light their prime minister’s relationship with D’Addario and other “escorts” was not directed at possible wrongdoing on the right but the left. Police in Bari raided the offices of five opposition parties. They were armed with warrants issued by prosecutors looking into suspected illegal party funding over a period from 2005 to the present. Bari is the capital of Apulia, a region governed by Nichi Vendola, one of the left’s few charismatic figures.

The suspicion is that politicians in his administration steered health service contracts to suppliers in exchange for kickbacks to their parties’ coffers.

Among the prosecutors is one attached to the organised crime department — indicating the possible involvement of Apulia’s mafia. Vendola has denied wrongdoing and no charges have been laid.

Apulia was not the only part of the south on Berlusconi’s mind last week, as he sought to put down a rebellion in his party. His Freedom People movement is allied to two regional groups: the Northern League and a smaller group, the MPA, which seeks broader self-government for Sicily.

Exasperated by what he saw as the prime minister’s repeated concessions to the League, a junior minister, Gianfranco Miccichè, threatened to lead a group of fellow rebels out of the Freedom People and link up with the MPA.

The aim was to create a new “Party of the South” that would enjoy the same leverage as the League, on which the government relies for its majority.

By Saturday, Berlusconi had neutralised the threat — by throwing money at the Mezzogiorno.

He promised to unblock some €4bn of development funds for Sicily, start talks on extra financing for other southern regions, and create a new government agency and public bank for the Mezzogiorno.

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