Part of Best Foreign Affairs Web Stories of 2011

The Veiled Tyranny of Italy's Silvio Berlusconi

How the Prime Minister Clings to Power

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's system of power has no precedent and no equal in the history of liberal and democratic countries. The most unsavory aspects of his regime are well known. He is continually embroiled in political corruption scandals: His longtime political partner Cesare Previti has been found guilty of bribery and sentenced to six years in prison. There are allegations of his connections to organized crime: His other partner in business and politics, Marcello Dell'Utri, has been sentenced to eight years in prison for his ties to the Sicilian Mafia. Berlusconi displays an open contempt for the judiciary and the constitutional court, as he regards both as unacceptable limitations on his power. Accordingly, his cabinets have passed laws to shield him from the judiciary. The numerous sex scandals during his rule have prompted commentators to call Italy a "bordello state" that is run by a "whoreocracy."

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