It is not often that a divorce trial rises to political significance. The decision of the Appeals Court of Milan, admitting Silvio Berlusconi’s appeal against the previous ruling requiring him to pay €1.4 million per month to his ex-wife, Veronica Lario, is one of those rare cases.
For Lario, this is a doubly bitter pill to swallow. She will also have to return to her husband the payments he has already made since February 2014. These amount to €60 million — only €43 million if we take into account the pending damages for the period of separation, a dispute in which Lario has already obtained the seizure of €26 million from the accounts of her ex-husband.
There is, of course, no direct political impact, but in terms of image, it’s a different question.
The Sicilian elections have already made the resurrection of Berlusconi indisputable, not only politically but also from a strictly electoral point of view. The Milan ruling now sides with him on a front that is certainly among those to which public opinion is most sensitive.
If a positive verdict on his appeal in Strasbourg against his ineligibility for the upcoming elections were to be added to this, the triumph of the man formerly sentenced to community service for tax evasion would be total. He certainly hopes for this outcome, and so he is pushing for elections in May (but the decision “will be up to the wisdom of the Head of State”), just in time for him to be welcomed back on the ballot if the sentence goes his way.
Moreover, with the decision of the European Court, of extraordinary importance for him, just in sight, the currently ineligible politician has been among the first in recent days to circle the wagons in defense of the President of the ECB, Mario Draghi. Even if that implicitly denies his old allegations from 2011 of a “European coup.”
Those were different times. Today, for Silvio “the moderate,” Europe is no longer a weakness, but a strength.
Berlusconi feels the winds are turning in his favor, and can almost taste his victory already.
In the friendly TV studio of Porta a Porta, he swears the only thing he regrets is “not having managed to get to 51 percent — but this time I will succeed.” Not that the 51 percent is necessary: “With this system, 40 is enough have a majority,” he explains, illustrating exactly the same thinking as Renzi’s.
He, however, will certainly be in the game. “If I can be a candidate, I will lead the attack; otherwise I will be the coach.”
He really didn’t need to make that promise. The election campaign has always been his home field, and he is once again counting on his great skills as a salesman, both to bring the center-right up to 40 percent and to gain more than the Lega Nord. The challenge of collaborating with his allies will be almost as important as that of defeating his enemies, but he does not acknowledge any problem there: “Salvini is sometimes too exuberant, but at the negotiating table has good common sense. The relationship with the allies doesn’t worry me.”
On the court decision that gives him back tens of millions of Euros, Berlusconi has nothing to say: “It’s a story that has always caused me pain.”
The ruling stems directly from that of the Italian Supreme Court in the case of former Minister Vittorio Grilli. In that case, it was decided that the ex-husband has no obligation to support the wife by guaranteeing her the same “standard of living” if she is able to support herself. And, according to the judges, Veronica Lario, born Miriam Bartolini, can count on “a large fortune, moreover fully provided to her by her husband”: €300 million, including jewelry, real estate, and about €16 million in cash.
Leaving all chivalry aside, it’s a rosy day for Berlusconi. So, after the obligatory football talk (“Tavecchio was democratically elected, and he did a good job. I’d see Carlo Ancelotti as the coach of the Squadra Azzura”), our “Black Knight” (as goes the title of the famous expose), in pure Berlusconi style, allows himself a Mussolini quote: ”What is my motto? Believe, obey, fight.”