Silvio and Caesar s Wife
By, Jean-Marcel Bouguereau
Le Nouvel Observateur.
Friday 20 June 2003
OUF ! A delinquent won t preside over the European Union. Silvio Berlusconi, who takes over the rotating Presidency from July 1, was accused, well before he had begun his political career, of having offered bribes to Roman magistrates to influence their judgment with regard to the repurchase of a nationalized company. And he was at considerable risk of being severely condemned in the coming months. Yesterday, the Italian Chamber of Deputies, in the absence of the opposition, voted in a text bestowing immunity from prosecution to the five highest leaders of the state, so as to disguise that this law was made for a single person, Silvio Berlusconi. This was a first in a democracy: the President of the Council, Head of a Parliamentary majority, and so able to directly control the legislative process, had a law made to order to escape Justice s thunderbolts. Much better than Chirac and his constitutional immunity, the defendant Berlusconi demonstrated that he was stronger than the law. This new legislative disposition, moreover, from now on may cover any offence under common law, whatever it may be: should it be confirmed that a high dignitary of the state has strangled his wife or raped his chamber maid, he will benefit from immunity. An indefinite postponement which is neither more nor less than an authorization to commit offenses, as an Italian editorialist wrote.
There was a time when in Rome, not only Caesar, but even his wife, had to remain above all suspicion. Those times are clearly gone, even if two-thirds of Italians, according to the polls, are opposed to this law. But perhaps the wind is turning with regard to this bric-a-brac government and its raping and pillaging majority: the left, in bad shape for a long time, has just won back two provinces, including Rome s.
Sign of a baroque period: at the same moment, or almost, at the Sorbonne, a dozen or so personalities, including the Italian judge Di Pietro, the source of the clean hands operation, and Judge Eva Joly presented a solemn appeal denouncing the devastating effects of high-level corruption and its corollary: impunity .
Jean-Marcel Bouguereau is the Editor-in-Chief of the Nouvel Observateur. He is also an editorialist at the R publique des Pyr n es, for which he wrote this article.