Three Monkeys Online

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Berlusconi’s ‘Sexygate’ – The Minister goes down?


Berlusconi has repeatedly stated his aim to ‘modernise’ Italian democracy, bringing it closer to the American presidential system. In the best tradition of recent American politics then, it was almost inevitable that oral sex would make an appearance.

While Clinton’s presidency was hampered by his non-sex sex with Lewinsky, allegations surfacing regarding a similar oral intervention, this time performed by one of Berlusconi’s ‘Babe’ ministers on the Premier himself, look likely to strengthen Berluska’s parliamentary position rather than hamper it.

The story goes like this.

On Tuesday evening a large demonstration was held in Rome’s Piazza Navona to protest against a raft of controversial legislation being introduced by Berlusconi’s government (5 unconstitutional laws in one month, a record as journalist Marco Travaglio pointed out to the demonstration).

Addressing the crowd, noted satirist Sabina Guzzanti launched a blistering attack, not solely on Berlusconi but also on Minister Mara Carfagna, the ex-show girl (and law graduate) appointed as Minister for equal opportunities in Berlusconi’s government. Guzzanti repeated the allegations of phone calls between Carfagna and Berlusconi where they discussed oral sex – allegations printed by the Argentinean daily El Clarin.

The newspapers yesterday, without exception, ran with stories about how the demonstration had attacked Carfagna (and also President Napolitano, and leader of the opposition Walter Veltroni). Carfagna has launched a libel suit against Guzzanti, and many of that beleaguered minority, the female members of parliament, have sent messages of support to Carfagna.

What was absent from the newspapers and the expressions of solidarity was any examination of the substance and import behind the allegations.

A common reaction was published by Articolo 21, an association dedicated to the freedom of the press and notably anti-Berlusconi. Writing about Guzzanti’s comments, Giorgio Santelli had this to say:

“The attack on Minister Carfagna was gratuitous, vulgar, chauvinist, and seems defamatory, based on false interceptions and on a theme that has nothing to do with the political life of the country ”

An indignation mirrored by the press and by the main opposition party the Partito Democratico. An indignation that will help keep Walter Veltroni’s party off the hook when they, probably, support the government when various laws are voted on this week in parliament, including the so called ‘Lodo Alfano‘ which attempts, once again, to introduce immunity from prosecution for the four highest office-holders in the Republic (including Berlusconi who, it seems, is about to have a guilty verdict returned in one of his numerous trials).

Poorly timed, perhaps, but Guzzanti’s comments were anything but gratuitous. The demonstration on Tuesday was against the topsy-turvy culture that Berlusconismo proposes – where those on trial decide the rules by which the trial may proceed, for example. The allegations surrounding Berlusconi and Carfagna are not a vulgar intrusion into the bedroom of two irrelevant political actors. The substance of the allegation is that the Minister for equal opportunities, prior to getting the post, had sex with her boss.

In a country which has amongst the lowest rates of female employment in Europe, and perhaps not coincidentally one of the lowest birth-rates too, the woman charged with ensuring fairness in the workplace may be engaged in an affair with her boss – could it be more politically relevant?

All parties in the last election placed women’s participation in politics as a priority (without actually doing anything about it in terms of candidates proposed), and this is the response.

Carfagna has come in for some chauvinist snipes from the world’s media since her announcement as minister – with headlines like ‘Italy’s Sexy Minister’ being commonplace (with scarce mention of the fact that the ‘former-showgirl’ also has a degree in Law)- but Guzzanti’s critics are misguided in placing her comments in the same light. While the world’s press focussed on her looks, rather than ability, Guzzanti is repeating allegations that have a direct bearing on her suitability for the job. In fact, Guzzanti’s attack was on Berlusconi and his nomination of a woman he has allegedly had sexual relations with to a position in government. If it’s true, then it’s a sordid abuse of power, and very much a feminist issue. Whether Carfagna can be cast in the light of victim is open to debate, but the whole issue is political, public, and hugely important.

Guzzanti’s timing was poor, but her comments and analysis were anything but.

1)”E’ del tutto gratuito, sguaiato, maschilista e dal sapore diffamatorio l’attacco al Ministro Carfagna, sulla base di false intercettazioni e su un tema che non avrebbe nemmeno nulla a che vedere con la vita politica del Paese. ” In 100mila per dire no a Berlusconi ma tre cafonate nascondono i veri temi della protesta- Giorgio Santelli, Articolo 21

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