Berlusconi is back. Again. In the midst of the convoluted Italian political situation, where the League and the 5 Star Movement (M5S) finalize a Government agreement in extremis, the former Cavaliere has just been politically rehabilitated. A Milan judge lifted his disqualification for tax fraud since 2013 on Friday afternoon. The decision adds extraordinary pressure to ongoing negotiations, in which he had stepped aside as required by the grillinos. But if the agreement does not come to fruition and there is an electoral repetition, Silvio Berlusconi could be the candidate of Forza Italia again.
Silvio Berlusconi is immortal. Or at least that indicates its long and well-founded political legend. After several burials and countless resurrections, a five-year disqualification, 81 years in tow and a dubious state of health, he returns to the arena at the moment his party needed him most. Dismounted from the political negotiations between the League and M5S and surpassed in all aspects of the game by his coalition partner, Matteo Salvini, the former Cavaliere regains focus and adds exorbitant pressure to the Government negotiations that took place in Milan on Saturday without reaching any agreement. In Forza Italia, a attrezzo politician designed from day one around his figure, they uncork the champagne and talk about the old gambler's final trick.
Three times Prime Minister of Italy and mastermind of a type of political culture that will survive him, Berlusconi had been politically excluded since 2013 for a crime of tax fraud that, based on the Severino law, forced him to remain disqualified for the next six years. The end of the sentence was near, but the judge has estimated that the good behavior of the former Cavaliere – among other things, he was required to do a volunteer work visiting the elderly four hours a week as an extenuating factor for the four years in prison that included the conviction – allows the lifting of the sentence. The lawyers of the Milanese tycoon, rushing all avenues, had even taken the case to the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg, which was preparing to make a decision in the coming months.
In Forza Italia they uncork the champagne and ensure that the judge's decision changes the entire political party
The disqualification – it was not due to any of the judicial processes for inducing the prostitution of minors or because of his proven links with Cosa Nostra – had not prevented Berlusconi from continuing to influence politics. In fact, he even put his name on the Forza Italia ballots in the last elections and participated in the round of consultations with the President of the Republic. But his rehabilitation – the last time he was prime minister, he left with the risk premium at 574 points, his all-time high – will give him new tools for his penultimate battle.
In the Milanese mansion of Arcore (Milan), operations center berlusconian, they ponder how to profit from this unexpected comeback. But the main play is clear. If the agreement between the two parties of a populist and eurosceptic nature fails – the last request for overtime to the Quirinal raises even more doubts -, no one will now be able to say that it was their fault. Berlusconi stepped aside when asked to do so, thinking of the good of the country, they insist. But the day after the failure, he will become the representative of moderation and European values and will stand as a candidate in the next elections. And in case there was finally an agreement, they think of Forza Italia, it would be a fleeting Executive that will allow the former Cavaliere to catch his breath from within Parliament – a legal carom will also assign him the seat of some sacrificed party – with a tough opposition and aggressive. So the magnate, at the very least, will be a deputy again and will frequently use his residence at the Palazzo Grazioli in Rome.
Berlusconi will soon be able to enter Parliament as a deputy and stand for the next elections
Renato Brunetta, leader of Forza Italia in the Chamber of Deputies and a member of Berlusconi's closest circle, explains to EL PAÍS how the news affects the party's strategy. “Change everything. With Berlusconi on the court again, the leader of the center-right is again him. De facto and de jure. Forza Italia will get more votes and that is their natural position. With him on the field again, the center-right would win, we would not need external votes like now. And with him, above all, in Italy there would be a non-populist economic policy ”. The perfect scenario, other sources point out, is that both parties reach an agreement, form a government and reality ends up dismembering it before December.
Terror on the M5S
Berlusconi has become the beast noir of the M5S in recent weeks. He has publicly accused them of democratic immaturity and of not serving "not even to clean the Mediaset toilets." But Luigi Di Maio played down on Saturday the return of the man for whom a law of incompatibilities was already brewing. “This does not change anything in the negotiation, which is going forward. Because the goal is to bring home the best result for citizens. We take note of the news, but the consideration about Berlusconi remains the same ”. The reality, depending on the environment grillino consulted, is that the news terrifies the leadership of a party that has always suspected the supposed good faith of taking a step to the side.
But the political beast is alive again and the negotiations are not going so well as to shake off the pressure. Salvini loudly celebrates the news of his coalition partner. “That Berlusconi can be a candidate again is good news for him, and for that I am very happy. But above all it is for democracy ”. But the League leader, who knows him well, knows that it is also a blow to his incipient leadership, obtained, in part, by the disqualification that weighed on who has been the leader of the center-right in the last 20 years. It is not convenient to piss him off and that is why he tries against the clock to find a name for the candidate for prime minister that does not bother the former Cavaliere and that allows the agreement with the grillinos. But the pressure is maximum.
The 5-Star Movement (M5S) and La Liga continued on Saturday in Milan with a negotiation that is beginning to have soap opera overtones. Both formations asked the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, for more time. But in the Quirinal Palace they begin to grow impatient and annoyed with the role of mere notary that is being assigned to the president. In fact, in a public speech on Saturday he praised the figure of the head of state Luigi Einaudi when, in 1953, after the elections, he did not listen to the political parties (the Christian Democrats) and elected Giuseppe Pella as prime minister on his own. . The warning, for those who wanted to understand it, was very clear.
For now, both parties have reached an agreement on a first draft. Di Maio himself gave an account on the blog of the formation of the points where there begins to be confluence. “We have found broad convergences on issues that are in the hearts of Italians: citizenship income, fixed income tax rate, fight against the immigration business, abolition of the Fornero law – pension reform – conflict of interest … . ”.
However, the main stumbling block lies in the name of the future prime minister. The M5S environment has launched some probe balloons in the last hours and then publicly denied them. Something that raises some concern in the League, which sees it as an attempt by Di Maio to reposition himself as a candidate.
In any case, and despite the extra time requested, today there should be smoke white in the headquarters of both formations. Otherwise, Silvio Berlusconi's plan will begin to be fulfilled point by point.
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