He is on trial for having sex with an underage prostitute, is one of the most divisive figures in Italy and was chased from office eight months ago after steering his country to the brink of financial catastrophe.
Now Silvio Berlusconi – who denies the sex trial charges – is back, unchastened, and apparently planning to stand for prime minister in an election early next year.
His move has added a new element of instability into Italy’s volatile politics, one of the key factors cited by ratings agency Moody’s in downgrading the country’s sovereign debt by two notches last week and warning it could cut further.
It underlines the lack of credible figures to continue the work of technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti, who has repeatedly said he will not stand at the election after restoring Italy’s credibility and imposing tough debt-cutting policies when he replaced Berlusconi last November…
Monti is highly respected in Brussels, Berlin and Washington. His serious and courtly style and economic expertise is as far removed as imaginable from Berlusconi, who is famed for his diplomatic gaffes, sex and corruption scandals – he faces a total of four trials – and off color jokes.
A lot of hopes are pinned on him. If shut out by the bond market, Italy could prove the tipping point for the entire currency project.
There are suspicions that Berlusconi’s real motives are to protect his financial interests, including maintaining strong influence over state broadcaster RAI and preventing legal changes that would worsen his judicial woes.
He may be content with creating a smaller party which would have enough parliamentary power to achieve these aims.
Whatever the outcome, Italy and Monti’s government look like they will face a turbulent few months before next year’s elections.
Berlusconi couldn’t care less what happen to Italy’s economy excepting how a collapse might affect his business interests. There are always vultures in capitalism who salivate over economic disaster – ready for a surfeit of dead and dying companies to feed on.