The 50-plus votes and allegations that failed to sink Berlusconi

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has survived more than 50 no-confidence votes in his political career, surviving yet another at least implicit one on Tuesday. But he is still headed out the door, he says. Over the years, charges of corruption, accusations of soliciting underage prostitutes, and alleged involvement with the mafia were not enough to sink the indomitable Mr. Berlusconi – but charges of mishandling the economic crisis seem to have done it. Here’s a look at the many things that would have taken down many other world leaders.

Andrew Medichini/AP/File
In this July 2011 file photo, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi votes over a crucial euro 70 billion ($99 billion) austerity package aimed at convincing investors that the eurozone's third-largest economy won't be swept into the debt crisis, at the lower house of parliament, in Rome.

Prostitution and involvement with underage women

Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters
A man unwraps a painting called 'Silvio & Ruby' made with plastic bags and scotch tape by Israeli artist Dodi Reifenberg at the Edward Cutler gallery in Milan, Italy, April 6. In 2010, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was put under investigation for 'underage prostitution' and 'abuse of power,' both for interactions with Karima 'Ruby' El Mahroug, who was 17 at the time.

Berlusconi’s frank comments about enjoying women’s company would be enough to sink some politicians, but not him. Nor were accusations of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor, nor were accusations of using prostitutes.

In 2009, rumors about a relationship with a then-17-year-old woman surfaced and garnered widespread national attention. No legal charges were brought, and the furor faded. 

Then, in 2010, he was put under investigation for “underage prostitution” and “abuse of power,” both for interactions with Karima “Ruby” El Mahroug, who was 17 at the time. While prostitution is legal in Italy and the age for sexual consent is 14, aiding underage prostitution is a crime. Berlusconi was accused of paying the woman for sexual services before she turned 18. The trial began in 2011

He was also accused of intervening on Ms. Mahroug’s behalf to get her out of jail after she was arrested for petty theft, allegedly calling a prosecutor to release her immediately.

Berlusconi tried to pass a law that would grant government ministers immunity from being put on trial, but it was defeated in a national referendum, allowing him to be prosecuted for the prostitution charges and a series of corruption charges, The Christian Science Monitor reported in June. As the case unfolded, his party retained the highest approval rating in the country and his personal approval declined, but still remained at 35 percent.

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