Italian press review: Berlusconi conviction

Front pages of Italian newspapers, 2 August The front pages of some Italian newspapers on Friday

There is no more divisive a figure in Italy than Silvio Berlusconi. People tend to be either very much with him, or against him.

And in the aftermath of the former prime minister's conviction for tax fraud, the depth of the division between the two camps, and the strength of the emotions felt, are there to see all over the Italian newspapers.

The one run by the beleaguered Berlusconi's family, Il Giornale, is of course right by his side.

It carries a big headline, "Berlusconi is Not Finished".

Start Quote

The political adventure of Berlusconi does not finish here”

End Quote Il Giornale

And in other bold type it talks of this having been a "political sentence" that was intended to "decapitate" democracy.

The paper's editor, Alessandro Sallusti, expresses its view in a front-page piece: "It took them 18 years but in the end they hunted him down."

He describes the very wealthy Berlusconi as Italy's biggest taxpayer, and obviously feels that it is ironic and deeply unjust that he should have been condemned for evasion.

"The political adventure of Berlusconi does not finish here," Mr Sallusti writes.

"He will be [leader of People of Freedom party] for a long time to come, despite the small and miserable men - some of them present in the court that convicted him - that would like to see him dead."

But the left-leaning La Repubblica takes a very different view.

'Swindled'

It clearly relished the spectacle of Berlusconi being definitively condemned for the first time in all his many court cases.

"The Consequences of the Truth", reads one of its front-page headlines.

Start Quote

[Berlusconi is] asking for the help of the people he swindled”

End Quote La Repubblica

And beneath it the paper's editor, Ezio Mauro, writes that the trial shed light on the origins of the wealth that has funded Berlusconi's political career.

"The whole world now knows that Berlusconi has committed tax fraud against the state," writes Mr Mauro.

"The Court of Cassation yesterday sentenced a gigantic scheme of corporate tax evasion, committed by the 'self-made man' who 'loves the country'. Now we know the nature of that love..."

Berlusconi aimed to strike a statesman-like tone as he delivered a video message in the hours after the verdict.

Sitting behind a large desk in front of the Italian and EU flags, he railed against the injustice that he insisted he had just endured, and said he would seek a mandate for reform of the judicial system.

But La Repubblica mocks this performance by what it calls the "old actor".

Here was a rich tax evader pretending to be a victim "and asking for the help of the people he swindled", it says.

Impact on Italy

Writing in the more centrist Corriere della Sera, Antonio Polito steps back and takes a wider view.

Start Quote

The Berlusconi sentence is not a private matter”

End Quote Corriere della Sera

He says that the sentence is a very hard blow not only for Berlusconi "but also for Italy and its international image because the convicted man has been prime minister three times".

Polito writes that the great majority of Italians, along with the rest of Europe and the money markets, are wondering what these events will bring - what political impact they might have on the coalition government of which Berlusconi's faction is a part.

He asks what the consequences will be for the collective national effort to escape the lingering economic crisis and "breathe some air".

"The Berlusconi sentence is not a private matter," Mr Polito says. "It is a public and political event of the highest order."

More on This Story

Berlusconi's era

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