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Angels and the Alligator

Berlusconi has finally met his Brutus; now he must finally face justice

Two angels have killed the Alligator. First, Angela Merkel caused him to be removed from the government. But now it has been his own right arm, Angelino Alfano, who has taken his power away. "Those born today will have the luck to live in a different Italy," said the daily La Stampa.

For 20 years he has governed personally, or allowed others to govern in his interest. Until he tired of it, let the government fall, and won new elections. But it's over. He tried to do the same with the present prime minister, Enrico Letta, as he had done to the previous one, Mario Monti; but it backfired. No one can now stop the gears of his removal from the Senate, and his house arrest in accordance with the final sentence of four years' imprisonment for tax fraud.

Berlusconi entered politics to evade justice, and is now leaving politics because he can no longer evade it. He has been kicked out by his lieutenant, who, as justice minister, produced the Alfano law that granted immunity to the head of state and to the prime minister. It was declared unconstitutional, but meanwhile it served to shield Berlusconi from the action of the courts.

As in the famous tragedy, it is Brutus who must kill Caesar. The enemy's attacks in the open field are beaten off, but the real danger is behind your back. Now he seems to have made a capital mistake.

The enemy's attacks in the open field are beaten off, but the real danger is behind your back. Now Berlusconi seems to have made a capital mistake

The Alligator trusted too much to his authority over his party, and his ability to hold it together. He failed to notice that his lieutenant belonged to the same generation as the Cabinet (Alfano and Letta are both 43); that Cabinet collaboration creates solidarities, consolidated by Letta's firm defense of his deputy prime minister Alfano against a non-confidence motion; and that both had belonged to the Christian Democrat youth organization, under the influence of Ciriaco de Mita.

The emperor decides alone, and gives orders without consulting his lieutenants. So it was that the Alligator decided to order all five of his People of Freedom party's ministers, headed by Alfano, to resign, and call for immediate elections; and so it was that he then surprised everyone by swallowing his words and announcing in the Senate that he would vote for Letta in the confidence motion. It might seem that the Gator has slipped out of the noose again, just when they were about to shoot him in the head, in a scene of the low comedy he is such a master of. No scriptwriter could imagine the ludicrous scene, which ends when the dethroned emperor swallows his threats, and stands exposed to the hand of justice that he has sidestepped for so long.

The uselessness of his backpedalling is obvious, not only because justice will follow its course, but also because his majority is breaking up. Alfano and 25 other senators promised their confidence to Letta when Berlusconi went over to the enemy, given that he was unable to beat them. Letta no longer needs their votes. Berlusconi has tried to save himself, but Alfano had already saved the government. A new Berlusconi-free majority is in sight after Wednesday's voting.

His rule has lasted 20 years, and has ended with a breakup in the orderly ranks of his army, formed of lawyers, business leaders and younger wolves of the pack, who eventually grow up and turn upon the Old Grey Wolf, when he is too old to keep them in line. Such is the Law of the Pack.

The original note in this episode is that it has not been the new digital democracy of Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement that has pulled the rug out from under the emperor of plebiscitary video-democracy, but two politicians raised and trained in the Christian Democrat school, and in the name of the genuine representative democracy that has been so reduced to mockery in recent years.

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