Berlusconi has resigned as Italy’s Prime Minister. It is too early to know whether we have finally seen the back of him in Italian politics, but given his age (75) it does seem likely that Italy will never be governed by him again.
The man has been the dominant figure in Italian politics for 17 years, from his sudden entry into politics in 1994 until today. He won the elections three times (in 1994, 2001 and 2008) and lost them twice (1996 and 2006), and the government he formed in 2001 was the only one in the history of the Italian Republic to survive until the end of its term.
I think it is hard for people who can’t speak italian and aren’t well acquainted with the country to understand just how corrupt and indecent the man and his cronies are. Any one of the scandals surrounding him, from his trials for corruption to his sex with underage girls, his relationship with convicted mafia bosses, his obscene and offensive puns and pranks, his blatant conflict of interests and his laws tailor-made to save him from prosecution, would have been enough on their own to cause his resignation in most western countries. His continuing hold on Italy has done great damage to the country’s international reputation, especially in these last few years. At the same time his ownership of Italy’s most popular private television channels, which hold a great influence over the less educated sectors of the population, helps to ensure that most of his voters aren’t even aware what the world thinks of their prime minister. One scandal above all others seems to me to be worth mentioning, especially since it is virtually unknown outside of Italy, and even within Italy it has been all but forgotten by most people.
In the early eighties Berlusconi was a member of the infamous P2 Masonic lodge, alongside numerous other members of the italian elite. This is not some conspiracy theory, but a fact which was certified by a police investigation at the time. The P2 lodge (the name stands for Propaganda 2) was a freemason lodge headed by Licio Gelli, a shady Italian businessman who started off as a liaison officer between the Italian and German fascist regimes during the Second World War, and chose to participate in Mussolini’s puppet state, the “Republic of Salo’”, after the Nazis invaded Italy. After the war he went on being a convinced fascist, joining a small party on the extreme right, and in 1966 he took on the leadership of the P2, a lodge which fell under the jurisdiction of the Grand Orient of Italy, the official Italian Freemason organization. Slowly, Gelli set about using his powerful connections to bring as many politicians, industrialists, and military leaders as possible into the lodge, and turning it into a vehicle for his vehemently right wing ideas. The Freemasons expelled or suspended the P2 lodge in 1974 (it has never been quite clear), after finding out what Gelli was up to, but the lodge went on existing illegally, violating Italian laws against the constitution of secret societies.
The existence of the lodge came to light in 1981, during a police investigation into the collapse of Michele Sindona’s financial empire. A list of members was found in Gelli’s home, and the names included a host of important politicians and businessmen, the heads of all three of Italy’s secret services and the son of the last deposed king of Italy. They also included Berlusconi. Later on, a couple of documents were found hidden in the false bottom of a suitcase belonging to Gelli’s daughter in Rome airport. One of the documents, ironically entitled “Plan for a democratic rebirth”, is generally seen as the P2’s political program. The document clearly stated the aim of turning Italy into an authoritarian right-wing state so as to curtail the influence of the Communist Party and the trade unions. This was to be done by placing P2 members in key positions in the country's institutions and engaging in widespread political corruption. These were no empty threats. Gelli himself had taken part in the failed coup organized by the former fascist general Junio Valerio Borghese in 1970, whose aim was to set up an authoritarian right wing dictatorship. He was on excellent terms with the leaders of Argentina’s military regime. And Italy’s neighbor Greece had become a fascist dictatorship as a result of a right wing military coup a few years earlier.
Berlusconi has never denied being part of this shadowy secret organization dedicated to subverting democracy, but when asked about it he has simply given evasive answers, saying that he didn’t really know what he was getting into. Of course, you would never hear the issue mentioned at all on Berlusconi’s TV channels. As a matter of fact, you would hardly ever hear about it on the state channels or on independent newspapers either. Quite simply, it has become one of the outrageous facts about Berlusconi’s past which are well known and documented, but do not seem to have any impact on his popularity with the half of the Italian population which has supported him for years.