Milan: Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s defence lawyers fought to get his sensational under-age prostitution trial moved out of the criminal courts on Monday as the Italian leader battled for his political future after suffering a withering defeat in local elections nationwide.
Berlusconi’s lawyer argued that the Italian leader was convinced that a Moroccan teen at the centre of the scandal was indeed the niece of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when he tried to get her out of trouble last May, and therefore was acting within his official duties and should be judged by a parliamentary body.
The trial resumed after a two-month break and the morning after late-night celebrations marking the defeat of Berlusconi’s candidates for mayor in his northern stronghold of Milan and in trash-plagued Naples.
The results revealed a weakened Italian leader and heightened the impression that he is too distracted by his legal woes to govern effectively.
Berlusconi was in Romania on a two-day state visit, and did not attend the trial. But he was eager to combat any impression that the election defeats posed a political threat to his governing coalition.
Not only did Berlusconi’s candidates lose in major races like Milan and Naples, so did candidates of his ally the Northern League in northern cities like Novara where they have thrived.
“I had a meeting to schedule my funeral, but I am too busy in the coming days so we’ll have to delay it,” Berlusconi joked with journalists in Bucharest.
Despite Berlusconi’s famous self-deprecation, commentators today insisted that the election results showed a shift in the way Italians perceived Berlusconi’s leadership.
“In 15 days, the face of Italy has changed. The transformation is deep and radical,” political analyst Stefano Folli wrote in il Sole 24 Ore. Agencies