Monday, September 9, 2013

Berlusconi's appeal to the European Court of Human Rights

As you might have already heard, Berlusconi is appealling to the European Court of Human Rights following his prison sentence for tax fraud. His lawyers sent the Court a file called "Silvio Berlusconi against Italy", in which they are contesting both the conviction and the possibility that Parliament will kick him out. Ironically, Berlusconi should lose his senatorial title according to the "Severino Law", an anti-corruption law which was approved during Monti's government and which was voted for also by Berlusconi's party. Among other things, it also forbids convicted people from sitting in Parliament. All parties, included The People of Freedom, used this law to prevent some convicted politicians from running in the last election, as they all pushed for the so-called "clean lists" (probably just trying to get some more votes). But now that it actually applies to Berlusconi, his party decided that the law should not be retrospective. 
Starting from today, a Senate commission will examine the issue of Berlusconi's "decadence", to use the literal translation. Everything will depend on the Democratic Party, as voting for Berlusconi's expulsion would imply that the grand coalition will fall apart.

But if the Italian Parliament is weak enough to save him, I highly doubt that we should expect the same from the European Court of Human Rights. In fact, here is the reaction we might get from the Strarsbourg Court:

(Image from the blog of satiric pictures Colorz, "graphic appendix"of the collective satiric blog Spinoza. Highly recommended to anyone who speaks Italian)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

President Napolitano appoints four new life senators- and Berlusconi isn’t one of them

A couple of days ago, the President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano unexpectedly nominated four new life senators. The Italian Senate is indeed made of about 95% popularly elected senators on a five-year mandate, and a remaining minority of life appointed peers (Mario Monti, former technocratic PM, was the last one to be appointed in 2011).
The four new life senators are:
  •          former Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra director Claudio Abbado (top left)
  •          stem cell researcher  Elena Cattaneo (top right)
  •          architect Renzo Piano (bottom right)
  •         Nobel Prize-winning physicist Carlo Rubbia (bottom left)

These four personalities will, according to Napolitano, act in “absolute independence” and bring their contributions to highly significant areas in institutional life.
Berlusconi’s party The People of Freedom harshly criticised the appointment of these four senators for two main reasons.
First of all, because Silvio Berlusconi is not one of them. Life senators enjoy a series of privileges, including some legal immunity, which might have once again saved Berlusconi (who is facing a prison sentence for tax fraud and awaiting another verdict for the charge of child prostitution). But President Napolitano, by leaving him off the list, seems to clearly send the message that Berlusconi will receive no special treatment.
Secondly, The People of Freedom protested because all four new senators have somehow been critical towards Berlusconi in the past, even though they never openly aligned themselves with the centre-left.
If the four of them turn out to vote in favour of the Democratic Party in the Senate, this could change the numbers in the upper chamber in quite a significant way: now the leftist Democratic Party would need merely 7 votes in order to have a majority that does not include Berlusconi’s party. 7 votes are really not that many, and it is likely that at least 7 “dissidents” from Beppe Grillo’s 5 Star Movement would be willing to vote with the Democratic Party.
It is worth noticing one more time the anomaly of Italian politics: only in Italy someone could actually complain because a convicted person was not made life senator. A normal country would be relieved.  
Daniela Santanchè, People of Freedom MP and adviser, stated: “Congratulations to the four nominees.  But I am deeply sorry for the only one who should have been awarded the life senator honour and was not, that is Silvio Berlusconi. He would have been the best and the most qualified and deserving person. Without taking anything away from the four new life senators, I think that they are not comparable to Berlusconi”.

That’s right: they are indeed so not comparable. Don’t even try to compare them.