The Cavaliere had never imagined that a woman would do away with the old philanderer Berlusconi politically. The designated Prime Minister Meloni did it.
That with Silvio Berlusconi and the women is such a story. The 86-year-old still thinks he’s irresistible. Last week, on his comeback to the Senate, he tried his hand at flirting with an old man with an employee of the House of Representatives.
For Berlusconi, women have always been “croce e delizia”, torture and happiness at the same time, as Verdi’s opera “La Traviata” puts it. But it was inconceivable to him that a woman would do away with him, Silvio Berlusconi, the nation’s womanizer. But now it has happened. Giorgia Meloni, leader of the post-fascist Fratelli d’Italia party and perhaps Italy’s first female prime minister as soon as next week, has dethroned him.
For days, Berlusconi tried to secure a ministerial post for Licia Ronzulli, whom she sponsored. But Meloni doesn’t want her. No one can say why exactly, but that’s the way it is. On the morning of October 13, shortly before the senators gathered to elect their president, the “Cavaliere” met with Meloni. She brushed him off again.
“know-it-all, overbearing, insulting, arrogant”
Berlusconi was so furious that he ordered the other senators in his Forza Italia party not to vote for Ignazio Benito Maria La Russa, one of the heavyweights in Meloni’s party. There are many things to be said against La Russa, not least his neo-fascist past, but that wasn’t what Berlusconi was after – he wanted to teach Meloni a lesson. But the game didn’t work. 16 votes came from the opposition, with which La Russa was elected in the first ballot.
But that’s not all. TV cameras captured two scenes that captured Berlusconi’s anger at Meloni. In the first, La Russa is seen approaching Berlusconi, who tells him to “go to hell”. In the second, the cameras are trained on a piece of paper on which Berlusconi judges Meloni’s behavior: “Know-it-all, overbearing, insulting, arrogant, against any change, one that one cannot get along with.”
For Meloni, who had previously tried not to let Berlusconi or Lega boss Matteo Salvini put her under pressure or provoke her, that was enough. In front of the cameras, she let the Forza boss know that he had forgotten one quality: “not blackmailable”.
Not the first time a woman has made Berlusconi look stupid
That a woman put him in his place must have come as a shock to Berlusconi. As I said, women didn’t just bring happiness to Berlusconi. His second wife Veronica Lario exposed him when his antics with much younger women caught the media far more attention than his position as prime minister. That was before the bunga bunga scandal and the “Ruby case” with the young Moroccan Karima el-Mahroug. He was on trial for abuse of office, promoting underage prostitution and bribing witnesses. The latter is still running.
Another woman who publicly opposed him was Rosy Bindi, then President of the Democratic Party and Deputy Chairwoman of the Chamber of Deputies. At a meeting in 2009, Berlusconi remarked to her: “You are still more beautiful than you are intelligent.” Bindi answered him and replied: “I am not a woman who is available to you.”
Even with Chancellor Angela Merkel, he often bite on granite. She was unperturbed by his rude remarks and his not always statesmanlike demeanor. One could say, well, Bindi was a political opponent and Merkel a stiff German. But the fact that Meloni, who, as he likes to say, “I made what she is today”, so disavowed him, must be an insult to him.
Berlusconi had to go to Canossa
After Meloni’s insult, Berlusconi was furious and threatened to go alone to President Sergio Mattarella instead of with his allies when he convened the government consultations, probably as early as the end of this week. For a moment it looked as if the coalition would collapse like a house of cards.
It is said that Pier Silvio and Marina, his children from his first marriage, urged him to talk to Meloni. And not so much out of love for father and fatherland, but out of concern for the media empire that Berlusconi built and they now run.
Berlusconi complied. The meeting did not take place, as he usually did, at one of his luxury Milanese or Roman residences – Meloni forced him to meet her at Fratelli d’Italia headquarters – a walk to Canossa.
During the election campaign, Berlusconi always portrayed himself as the guarantor of the right-centre alliance’s supposedly European course. However, Meloni should have proved to him that it can also be done without him. Although Meloni should not be too sure of victory. The question remains who are the 16 opposition senators who made the election of La Russa possible and what do they expect in return.