21 Nov 2010

Will Berlusconi sex scandals destroy his career?

Foreign Affairs Correspondent

The tale of the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is worthy of ancient Rome, his critics tell Jonathan Rugman – political paralysis because of a modern Emperor’s priapic preoccupation with sex.

Is Italy's Silvio Berlusconi losing his grip on power because of his preoccupation with sex? (Getty).

The 74-year-old Italian leader’s career has been dogged with sex allegations but until recently, his popularity remained high among his countrymen.

In the last few years, however, ‘la dolce vita’ has all gone a bit sour for Mr Berlusconi. In May last year, his wife Veronica Lario sued for divorce. In December, he was attacked at a rally in Milan.

Then just this week, he has seen four of his ministers resign and now his Government, which is supposed to be agreeing a tough budget to tackle its debt, is said by many in Italy to be teetering on the brink and paralysed by indecision.

Opinion polls are hitting new lows, and Mr Berlusconi himself is said to be alone in one of his twenty homes, preparing for a crucial confidence vote in Parliament in three weeks’ time.

Women

Channel 4 News spoke to former showgirl Patrizia D’Addario – the first woman to tell her story about Mr Berlusconi publicly.

She says she slept with Mr Berlusconi the night Barack Obama was elected President of the United States in 2008. She has also claimed that she and other women were paid to attend private parties with the Prime Minister.

“He is a life addict. He likes life. He likes women.” Friend of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi

“Here was such a powerful man taking care of me,” she said. “But it turns out I was wrong…I was deluded.”

Addiction

But Mr Berlusconi’s friend told Channel 4 News the Prime Minister is not a sex addict.

“He is a life addict,” he said. “He likes life. He likes women.”

Whatever Mr Berlusconi’s likes and dislikes, they could be finally catching up with him – and he doesn’t exactly get himself out of trouble when defending his predilections.

“I work non-stop. And if sometimes I look at the face of a beautiful girl, well it is better to be passionate about a beautiful girl than to be gay,” he said earlier this month.