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Media consider Berlusconi ‘turning point’

Silvio Berlusconi speaks to his supporters upon hearing of the Senate's decision AFP

The Swiss press believe that the expulsion of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi from parliament is a big step for Italy, but they do not see it as marking the end of the Berlusconi era.

On Wednesday, the Italian Senate voted to exclude the 77-year-old from parliament with immediate effect over his conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi, a shrill figure who has dominated Italian politics for 20 years, could now face arrest over other criminal cases as he has lost his immunity from prosecution. He told supporters in Rome it was a “day of mourning” for democracy and lambasted his opponents. He has vowed to continue leading his centre-right party from outside parliament.

“Silvio Berlusconi’s political twilight,” was how Le Temps’ Rome correspondent saw it. “Silvio Berlusconi’s biggest fear has come true: he has lost his parliamentary immunity.”

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung described the move as a “turning point” and said an example had been made of Berlusconi.

“The law also applies to media moguls and multimillionaires, to the country’s strong man who considered himself above the law. For once, the thoroughly battered reputation of the Italian constitution has been repaired and corrected. This is important to the country,” it said.

But the editorial noted that the stress of the past few weeks had shown the true core of the man, known as Il Cavaliere (the knight), and it did not mince its words: arrogance and no respect for anyone – a lack of decency and honour. “The dazzling knight is now a sad figure”.

It added, however, that Berlusconi wouldn’t be Berlusconi if he didn’t continue his fight. But this was not what Italy, a land in economic crisis, needed: it needed to consider reforms, new jobs and its debts, not devote more time to the ex-prime minister.

Not the end

The Tages-Anzeiger agreed that Berlusconi would continue to dominate Italy. It also used the words “turning point” but observed: “it’s not the end of an era”.

The paper said another political figure, the comedian Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, had shown that it was possible to wield political influence outside parliament, and the billionaire Berlusconi would have more financial and media backing.

“Berlusconi still has the power, as before, to divide Italy.” He also will exploit the weaknesses of the current government, which is also embattled, the editorialist wrote, adding that those hoping that the government can get on with its job without Berlusconi around are likely to be disappointed. “Italy won’t calm down.”

The Italian-speaking Corriere del Ticino looked back at Berlusconi’s remarkable political career, in which he has survived many twists and turns and has been linked to the millions of Italians that have voted for him. What next? It is not possible to say for sure.

“Twenty years in politics is almost a century. What seemed in 1994 a fresh ideology, fixed on the future could now gradually become tired and outdated even for its most faithful followers. Because everything keeps going and changes and the new, youthful tastes could lie elsewhere.”

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR