Silvio Berlusconi’s new dream: the “squirrel operation” to be president

File image of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reacting after voting during the election of mayors and councilors, in Milan, Italy. October 3, 2021. (REUTERS / Flavio Lo Scalzo / Archive) (FLAVIO LO SCALZO /)

At 85 years old, Silvio Berlusconi dreams of becoming president of Italy despite his many legal setbacks and his “bunga bunga” sex scandals.

The media tycoon and former Italian prime minister is trying to muster the support of all parties to add to his extensive resume the most prestigious position.

The first round for the vote to renew the president for the next 7 years is set for January 24, since the current mandate ends on February 3, Sergio Mattarella. The choice is very uncertain, since in the first three ballots, two-thirds of the voters are required to take charge. But from the fourth vote an absolute majority of 505 votes is sufficient: the center-right, which chose him last Friday as its candidate, expresses about 480, and taking into account that someone might not vote for him, Berlusconi is missing approximately fifty votes.

In the last days, in the Italian political chronicles a code name to describe the negotiations Berlusconi has been conducting for months, leader of forza italy (FI), to try to be chosen. Journalists and experts call it “operation squirrel”. For weeks Berlusconi has begun to personally contact several parliamentarians, mostly independent, centrists and rebellious members of the populist Five Star Movement, to try to get support for his candidacy. It is about 50 deputies Y senators, just those that are missing to reach the “magic number” of 505 votes.

Sergio Mattarella (c), in a file image.  EFE/EPA/FABIO FRUSTACI
Sergio Mattarella (c), in a file image. EFE/EPA/FABIO FRUSTACI (FABIO FRUSTACI/)

Laura Garnet, a rebel parliamentarian from the Five Star Movement, recounted her surprise at receiving a call from Berlusconi this month. “Hello, I’m Mr. Bunga Bunga”, the former prime minister told him.

According to the chronicles of these days, the former prime minister is making these parliamentarians promises of all kinds, including guaranteeing them a position on their party’s lists. Berlusconi knows that many “pawns”, as second-line parliamentarians are called in Italian political jargon, they fear that the election of a new President will lead to early elections, a year and a half before the end of the legislature. As a result of the new law that reduced the number of deputies and senators, several are also certain that they will not be reelected.

“These parliamentarians are in a situation of great discomfort and uncertainty, in total there are about 250 votes that could, with different hypotheses and proposals, move in an unexpected direction.“, He said Vittorio Sgarby, a well-known art critic and MP who is helping Berlusconi convince his colleagues to vote for him. “The proposal is either certain ‘death’ or Berlusconi”.

Supporters of the former Cavaliere also joined the campaign, with a advertising page in a national newspaper extolling the qualities of the businessman who burst onto the political scene in 1994 seducing millions of Italians with his television empire: from “freedom hero” that “ended the cold war” to “example for all italians”.

Silvio Berlusconi Presidency Italy
The advertising page that extols the genius and figure of Berlusconi

Berlusconi also plans most bizarre strategies, like the the “marked” ballot. It is a way of writing the name of the candidate that allows him to count his possible support and compare the chances of being elected. Thus, Berlusconi and his collaborators will be able to monitor which parties have voted compactly and which have voted for him more than expected or whether calls to parliamentarians have been successful. This strategy can however be disrupted by the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Roberto Fico.

“A person convicted of tax fraud cannot be president”

Beyond your strategy, Berlusconi faces strong opposition. Neither the left, led by the Democratic Party, neither him Five Star Movement They did not even want to hear about the tycoon as president of the Republic, due to his record of excesses, controversies and sentences. Berlusconi was convicted in 2013 of tax evasion as well as his current legal troubles for his sexual parties with minors and his suspicious relationships with characters convicted of their links with the mafia.

A online petition against the candidacy launched by the opposition newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano, close to the Five Star Movement, already garnered more than 350 thousand signatures.

In Italy, a parliamentary republic, the president occupies above all a position of prestige, but has the power to dissolve Parliament, call early elections and mediate frequent government crises as the sole arbiter. It is also considered the “guarantor of the Constitution.”

“A tax fraudster who, according to a Supreme Court ruling, financed the mafia for 20 years cannot become President of the Republic”, said the director of the fatto Marco Travaglio. “You shouldn’t even be talking about his candidacyI couldn’t even be a public school janitor. He is a criminal”.

The truth is Berlusconi’s name is an increasingly important stumbling block in an election for which the blocks on the right and left must bring their positions closer together, since none of them add up to the quorum on their own.

Mario Draghi, the favorite

In this context, the chances of the other suitors are growing, with the current prime minister Favorite Mario Draghi even though he is not an official candidate. They also sound with increasing insistence the former prime minister Giuliano Amato, the option of a selection of Sergio Mattarella and one female candidate.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (REUTERS/Remo Casilli)
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi (REUTERS / Remo Casilli) (REMO CASILLI /)

Thus, more and more observers believe that, finally, Berlusconi will put aside his personal ambitions to become kingmaker, Y main protagonist of Mario Draghi’s move to the Quirinale, the residence of the president.

“In the next few days the candidacy will be withdrawn as a high form of love for the country. So far we have joked around a bit and a deep desire of the former Cavaliere. Political allies have supported him so as not to definitively dismantle the center-right. His children, friends and the Mediaset party [su conglomerado mediático] They supported him with love and gratitude. Now is the time to face reality. For not saying goodbye to politics with a humiliating vote. In order not to harm their companies that need stability and harmony with governments”wrote the magazine l’Espresso.

On Tuesday, his closest collaborator Vittorio Sgarbi seemed to suggest this outcome, anticipating that Berlusconi failed to convince the number of parliamentarians it needs Y looking for “a dignified exit”, the most honorable way to avoid defeat. something to the ex Cavaliere he’s not too used to it.

“Yesterday”Sgarbi said, “I was pretty sad”.

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Berlusconi’s 85 years: millions, sex scandals and a life dedicated to power