With the impending judgment of the high court dangling over his head, Berlusconi’s exit seems at last within reach. If that happens, it will be for the sake of the whole country, both on a national and an international level, and that’s pretty much out of the question.
Trouble is, it might not happen at all. The long-awaited verdict by the High Court is about the embezzlement charges, and of course there is also the bunga bunga trial and plenty more. But things are not as easy as they looks, even less so since he has spent a huge amount of time and energy while in office to adjust the Italian legal system in order to achieve a softening of – when not a complete absolution from – his charges. So there is still a possibility that he might get away with it. An amnesty, or some sort of other institutional trick by which keeping the very status he initially entered politics to secure himself: that of immunity.
Such mess is mostly down to the centre left’s responsibility: through the years, the Democratic party (PD) has built up a strategically flawed non aggression pact with him, which culminated in the current majority government supported by B’s and his party, the PDL, of which the current government fronted by Enrico Letta is the main expression. Letta himself, Italy’s new young prime minister, despite belonging to the party soi-disant arch-rival of Berlusconi, is as close to the centre-right as it gets. Not only he is the expression of the moderate wing of the PD, just like 40 years earlier the now president Napolitano – who literally created the present government – had been of the then Communist PCI: he is also the nephew of Gianni Letta, for years Berlusconi’s right arm and the man who bridged the transition from the Christian Democrats regime of the post war years through the socialists of Bettino Craxi to Berlusconi’s political coup de theatre in 1994 (at the last G8 summit the two men got mixed up: the press-kit had Gianni’s picture).
Letta, the freshman of the G8, might have given an impression of no-frills, no-nonsense approach to the stagnant socioeconomic situation currently afflicting the country, a welcome breath of fresh air after B’s buffoonery and Monti’s icy cold demeanour. But make no mistake. Not only his policy is substantially aligned to neoliberal, albeit moderate, trajectories. He is also being held totally hostage by B, whose quite likely conviction he “must” prevent, or his majority – shamelessly put together with the centre-right to keep out the bogeyman Grillo and tearing apart the PD in the process – will risk collapsing, as per the multiple threats from some “reckless” rightwing Mps.
This is in turn, needless to say, bringing havoc inside the PD, torn apart between those who are disgusted by the present course and call for a repositioning more to the left of the political spectrum, and those still engaged in the pursuit of the party’s suicidal long term line: aiming at the centre by becoming the centre. A task that will only be completed by the man history has appointed to do so: the impending future leader of the PD, the Chiantishire blairite Matteo Renzi.
It is a bleaker than bleak picture. Berlusconi might well go, at last. But he is somehow still calling the shots. Some of his political DNA has been permanently passed onto the centre-left and his legacy will cast over Italy for decades to come.