Thursday, October 08, 2009

Equal under the law

In 2008, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had a problem: a spotlight was being shone on his shady business dealings, and he was facing multiple charges of corruption and bribery. So in typical style, he first suspended all "non-priority" trials to prevent a case against him from reaching the courts, then passed a law granting himself immunity from prosecution. Now the constitutional court has overturned the latter, arguing that it violates the constitutional affirmation of equality under the law.

The ruling paves the way for the cases against Berlusconi to be re-opened, and for new charges to be brought over alleged mafia links and tax fraud. Last month, that threat was great enough for Berlusconi to threaten to resign if the court ruled against him; now he seems to have changed his mind. Instead, he is accusing the judiciary of political bias and threatening to interfere with its independence. Meanwhile Berlusconi's consiglieri, Umberto Bossi of the neo-fascist Lega Nord, is threatening to "enter into action, bringing out the people". That's not good news for Italy's democracy. But then neither is Berlusconi.