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  • The banner headlines this week in Italy focus upon the successful passage in the lower house (and so far only there) of a constitutional reform bill that would drastically curb the powers of the Senate. But other key decisions, including on Silvio Berlusconi, gay marriage and assisted reproductive technology, have propelled the courts, even more than the parliament itself, onto center stage.
  • Assailed by a hailstorm of legal troubles, one-time Premier and Senator Silvio Berlusconi, 79, was kicked out of the front door of the Senate thirteen months ago. This week Berlusconi returned, albeit through the back door, thanks to his year-old political agreement – some are now calling it an embrace – with Premier Matteo Renzi known as the Nazareno Pact. Together the two, formally adversaries, have defied their own minority factions to pass an important new election law.
  • “Italicum” – the agreement for reform of Italy’s election system hatched last February by that unlikely couple, Matteo Renzi and Silvio Berlusconi – still looks a bit like pie in the sky. Nevertheless, it is still high on the political agenda, though evolving with important novelties. And on the political stage two Vlads have had perhaps surprising roles to play: Luxuria the trans and Putin the czar.
  • The proposal for a revision of the election process finally made it into the Chamber of Deputies this week, as neo-Premier Matteo Renzi had promised, but it does not quite resemble the deal expected after he and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi had a widely publicized (and widely criticized) meeting to hash it out. In the Senate, Beppe Grillo, head of the Movimento Cinque Stelle, went on a North Korean-style warpath, casting out dissidents. New polls show center-right and center-left neck and neck, and, for Grillo, disapproval.
  • "Paint my picture truly like me," Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) told the artist about to paint his portrait, "pimples, warts, and everything as you see me." Is this what Silvio Berlusconi told Paul Stuart, the Sunday Times photographer famous for his realistic portraits? Italian commentators tend to agree that Stuart's less than flattering photographs published this Sunday usher in a new phase for the former Premier, who is back on the front pages thanks to his negotiations with Renzi over a new election law.
  • On the eve of what seems to be the end of the Berlusconi Era, historian Stanislao Pugliese, Distinguished Professor of Italian and Italian American Studies, looks at the past two decades of Italy's political history. He finds that, supposedly under siege by what he perceives to be a politically motivated judiciary looking into his corrupt business practices, Berlusconi resurrected the specter of communism -- but in reality his brand of unfettered consumerism has done more damage to the country’s traditional way of life than that which would have supposedly been inflicted by communism.
  • He was surely expecting it, but when the latest judiciary act involving former Premier Silvio Berlusconi arrived on Oct. 23, by all accounts it nevertheless came as una tegola in testa--a roof tile dropped on his head. This latest incrimination, which will bring Berlusconi to trial before a penal court on Feb. 11, is for vote-buying and is no less serious than the others--on the contrary. Berlusconi, already convicted of tax fraud, obviously fears time in prison, however unlikely. Coincidentally, the Italian supreme Cassations court has just cleared Sophia Loren, who did spend time in prison, for alleged tax dodging.
  • After threatening to torpedo the government, Silvio Berlusconi voted today to continue to share power with the Partito Democratico (PD). The former Premier's surprise about-face, with the support of his entire parliamentary group, means that the five-months-old government headed by Enrico Letta continues in office, and postpones recourse to early national general elections. The great mediator in the situation was President Giorgio Napolitano, more popular than ever.
  • Saturday's five-hour powwow at Silvio Berlusconi's villa at Arcore, near Milan, was attended by his entire roster of backers. The aim: to decide what political moves remain open to him now that a high court has found him guilty of tax dodging. Should his supporters continue to press President Giorgio Napolitano for an amnesty, when his request would appear an admission of guilt? Since Napolitano gives no sign of being willing to grant such an amnesty, that is excluded. Meantime Premier Enrico Letta has also refused to give Berlusconi an out. The result is that new elections appear ever more likely.
  • Through careful mediation, President Giorgio Napolitano has succeeded in calming at least some of the troubled waters of political Italy. This is a victory for Italy, for justice, for Premier Enrico Letta's coalition government, but also for the moderates within former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's splintered Freedom Party (PdL), who have been counseling a cautious approach even as an obviously depressed Berlusconi himself launches a new party. "I'd like to grant an amnesty but can't," said Napolitano in essence, while guaranteeing that Berlusconi will not go to prison.

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