Personal Indiscretions Could Be Berlusconi's Downfall

A judge has ordered Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to stand trial on charges of paying for sex with an underage girl.

He may also face charges of using his influence to get that young Moroccan woman, Karima el-Mahroug, otherwise known as "Ruby the Heart-Stealer,” out of jail, where she was being held for theft.

The sentence for involvement in juvenile prostitution is three years. Using influence to have Ruby released from jail could be twelve years.

Berlusconi apparently thought Ruby was Egyptian, related to then-President Hosni Mubarak, and as such helped her get out of prison to avoid a diplomatic incident.

It’s not the first time the 74-year-old billionaire Italian prime minister has faced charges. This time, however, it is different, because the allegations are about his personal life, as opposed to business conduct.

Some Italians are fed up. “As far as the trial is concerned, I don’t see why somebody should be above the law. I think he should stand trial. The judges know what they are doing,” said Milan resident Francesca Pellocchio.

The scandals regarding the Italian Prime Minister’s personal life have been piling up. From turning up at an 18-year-old’s birthday party to hosting the legendary “bunga-bunga” parties that supposedly take place at his residence, to this latest allegation of Berlusconi paying for sex with a 17-year-old woman, it’s becoming too much for some, especially Italian feminists, who protested in large numbers on Sunday.

Taped conversations suggest that Berlusconi wanted to pay Ruby handsomely to keep quiet, according to a phone conversation between her and a friend.

Some say this trial, which will be presided over by three female judges, could spell the end of Berlusconi’s career.

Others think the three-term prime minister will find a way to survive.

Italian Political Science Prof. Roberto D’Alimonte says, “I think Berlusconi will cling on to power. He has the majority both in the House and Senate, and has the resources to keep this majority together. How much he can do with this majority has to be seen, and I think he won’t be able to do much, but he will cling to power.”

Berlusconi may call elections, get himself re-elected, and then use that re-affirmation of his popularity to get the decision to try him put off or appealed. Many analysts say, despite all this, he would be re-elected if he ran again.

What people are saying is that this trial will be the fight of his life, and the most sensational trial in Italy. The media mogul has been the longest serving Prime Minister after World War II in Italy, the second longest serving Prime Minister in Italian history. He has had more than a dozen charges thrown at him over the years. And on top of the charges involving Ruby, there are three fraud cases pending against him.

As Italy reels from the global financial crisis, euro-woes, unemployment and many of the problems that have weakened Greece, Spain and Portugal as well, a prime minister believed to have a lot of free time to spend partying with young women may not be what Italians want in this new decade. But his popularity has been steady for nearly two decades.