Silvio Berlusconi has been a constant fixture of Italian politics for decades, but,
thanks to a fraud case verdict that effectively barred him from politics and placed him under house arrest, his time at the top may finally be over. The senate voted
last week to formally expel him, and his political party,
the People of Freedom (PdL), has split.
Berlusconi is an incredibly wiley customer, however — don’t forget he rose from a fairly middle class family to become both Italy’s richest man and prime minister — and the Italian press suspect he has a plan: Seeking election in Bulgaria.
The idea would revolve around the 2014 European Parliament elections, due to be held in May. Thanks to his fraud conviction, Berlusconi is now ineligible to run for re-election in Italy, but MEP elections remain open to him, and, in theory, any European citizen can run as a candidate for any EU member state. On Sunday, Italian newspaper Libero reported that thanks to his friendship with the former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria was a likely target for Berlusconi.
Why would Berlusconi want to be a Bulgarian MEP? Well, for one thing the position would no doubt stroke his ego — it’d be a very Berlusconi-like way to thumb his nose at the Italian liberals who forced him out. But there’s another, more practical factor. When Berlusconi was forced out of the senate, he lost the many protections that Italian politicians receive against investigation and prosecution. Being a member of the European Parliament would restore his immunity, and for someone with connections to as many criminal cases as Berlusconi does, that would be a big relief (he’s currently appealing a conviction for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing the power of the prime minister’s office, amongst other legal wrangles).
Exactly how such a plan would work in practice is a little unclear, however. Italian website Il Post reports that Berlusconi may have to renounce his Italian citizenship and accept Bulgarian citizenship to stand, and that Bulgaria’s president, currently Rosen Plevneliev, could give Berlusconi citizenship by special decree. Borisov’s party GERB are in opposition right now, but they control a considerable portion of the vote.
Unfortunately for Silvio, GERB have ruled Berlusconi out as a candidate, but a far smaller party has said they would love him to run for them. “Silvio Berlusconi has a place in Bulgarian politics. He is more patriotic than all of our MEPs put together,” Yane Yanev, the leader of the Order, Law and Justice (RZS) party, reportedly told the BTV network on Tuesday. “I’ll go further, Berlusconi deserves to be the head of our list of candidates at the European elections”.