As elections to renew the european parliaments get closer, the political arena in Italy fails to deal with the matters that should interest voters, and instead concentrates on the behavior of Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

In a crescendo of events, each of which could have brought less gutsy politicians to resign, the italian press is getting totally dominated by the personal matters of the prime minister. Let me give a brief summary below.

A trial proved that Berlusconi had corrupted an English lawyer, Mills, to get a false testimony from him; a law masterfully crafted by Berlusconi's lacqueys only a year ago is now preventing his impeachment. Berlusconi's wife Veronica Lario publically announces she is asking for a divorce, and claims Berlusconi is a "sick man" and should seek help. This happens a few days after the italian premier visits the 18-year-old birthday party of Noemi Letizia, bringing costly presents to the girl. Then, a story of underage girls invited for a week of parties in Berlusconi's villa in Sardinia (Noemi among them) unfolds, with details on how the attendees allegedly traveled there with state-owned aircraft, on how Berlusconi's version of his acquaintance of one of them does not hold water, on pictures of girls in topless at this week-long party being offered to newspapers by a paparazzi and then confiscated by request of Berlusconi's lawyer Ghedini.

Berlusconi is unmoved. He claims it is all a conspiration of the communists, and shows that the country is with him, quoting polls that see him at a whooping 73% popularity. But here is what The Times -only the last in a sizable list of newspapers dealing with the matter outside Italy- writes today:

The Clown's Mask Slip

The most distasteful aspect of Silvio Berlusconi’s behaviour is not that he is a chauvinist buffoon. Nor is it that he cavorts with women more than 50 years younger than himself, abusing his position to offer them jobs as models, personal assistants or even, absurdly, candidates for the European Parliament. What is most shocking is the utter contempt with which he treats the Italian public.

The ageing Lothario may find it amusing, or even perhaps daring, to act the playboy, boasting of his conquests, humiliating his wife and making comments that to many women are grotesquely inappropriate. He is not the first or the only one whose undignified behaviour is inappropriate to his office. But when legitimate questions are asked about relationships that touch on the scandalous and newspapers challenge him to explain associations that, at best, are puzzling, the clown’s mask slips. He threatens those newspapers and televisions stations that he controls, invokes the law to protect his “privacy”, issues evasive and contradictory statements and then melodramatically promises to resign if he is caught lying.

Read the rest of this artiche here.