Protesters hold signs of Italian politician and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi in Rome, following the announcement that his prison sentence was upheld. (Source: Reuters)
Silvio Berlusconi is going to jail. It's a phrase that, for many years, seemed to be an elusive thing to say with any degree of truth. The Italian politician and media mogul, who led the country as Prime Minister for 8 of the last 13 years, and a dominant figure in politics for the last two decades, has gone through scandal after scandal after crime after scandal. Berlusconi's scandals began at the start of his career, no less, during the so-called "Mani pulite" (Clean Hands) investigations that annihilated Italy's Cold War-era political system. But as leader of the Italian right, Berlusconi has held firm, with the help of manipulating the law to his advantage from time to time.
Now, though, we can say with certainty that indeed, Silvio Berlusconi is going to jail. In Rome today, the Court of Cassation, Italy's Supreme Court, upheld his jail term from being convicted of tax fraud last year. The case involved the conglomerate, Mediaset, artificially raising the price of film rights so as to avoid paying taxes, with Berlusconi as head of the company leading the process. Now, under a 2006 pardon law engineered by Berlusconi, his prison sentence was automatically reduced from the four years given to one year. Furthermore, because of Berlusconi's advanced age of 76, he may not even enter prison, instead being placed under house arrest. But that he has been sentenced to imprisonment is significant in and of itself.
However, there was another issue addressed in court: His service as Senator. The courts ruled in the tax case that he be banned from political office for five years. Given his advanced age, it was likely that this would end his political career outright, even if he were able to lead his party, the rightist People of Freedom Party, from behind the scenes. The Court of Cassation ruled, however, that this particular aspect of the sentencing be re-examined by the lower courts. During this re-examination, Berlusconi can remain Senator and party leader. Thus, it remains unlikely that the Italian Senate, which is run by a grand coalition of the center-left parties, Berlusconi's coalition, and some centrist parties, will change for the time being, and so stability will be maintained. Furthermore, whether he will serve a prison sentence for paying for an underage prostitute, handed down in June, remains uncertain. Still, Silvio Berlusconi will be going to jail. Never thought that was going to happen.