As Italy prepares to host G-8 summit, Berlusconi mired in personal scandal
In the midst of an economic crisis, Italy seem more occupied with the prime minister's alleged affair with a teenager than the July summit.
PARIS – Ahead of the July G-8 summit in Italy, what Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Italian officials are most concerned about is an ongoing story about the premier’s infatuation with 18-year-old Noemi Letizia.Skip to next paragraph
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Mr. Berlusconi's flings with dancers, show girls, and models are well known – but never took a serious political toll. Now, the uproar over Ms. Letizia has the billionaire premier on the defensive.
Fallout over the affair may be measured in European elections in June. But a G-8 summit held in the midst of a snap, crackle, and pop over what the Italian media has called “Noemigate” would ill serve him and the meeting, an important checkpoint in the global economic crisis, according to political analysts.
The €6,000 diamond necklace
The Italian job market itself is in an ongoing state of crisis. But the hot story remains Berlusconi’s young female “friend.” Letizia turned 18 on April 26 – something Berlusconi, 72, doubtless knows, since he attended her birthday party and gave her a €6,000 (about $8,382) gold and diamond necklace, sparking questions about him and her. (Read the Monitor's previous coverage of the issue here.)
Thursday Berlusconi took a new tack – issuing a statement saying that he's previously clarified there was nothing wrong with the relationship. If someone asked if he had a "spicy or more than spicy" relationship with a minor, his answer would be "absolutely not." He reportedly added that if he lied about the relationship, "I would have to resign a minute later."
He says that he plans to say nothing more. This is a shift from earlier vows to fully disclose the affair in Parliament.
Ten simple questions
But that was before a round of major contradictions arose over the story. Currently, 10 simple but penetrating questions for Berlusconi, assembled by the left leaning La Repubblica, remain on the table.
So far, Letizia’s age is about the only thing that is clear about the situation, other than the demand of the first lady of Italy, Veronica Lario, for a divorce – after the birthday party. Berlusconi has brushed off the matter as political revenge.
The Financial Times opined this week that the “danger of Berlusconi,” whose right-wing “cronies” appear better at Italian politics than the left, is not the fascism of the past – but “that of media sapping the serious content of politics, and replacing it with entertainment” and a culture of “ruthless demonization” of those wishing to question him.
In his career, the right-wing Italian media magnate-cum-premier has weathered worse. This year, he put up several showgirls as candidates for European elections, until a popular outcry forced their withdrawal.