BERLUSCONI THIRD GOVERNMENT 2008 -2011

Berlusconi won the last snap elections in 2008, with the People of Freedom party (fusion of his previous Forza Italia party and of Fini's Alleanza Nazionale) against Walter Veltroni of the Democratic Party. The electoral campaign was waged by Berlusconi on the tones of criminal insecurity brought in the country by the 2006 pardon act, on the Naples waste management issue (although this will remain haunting the government in the following years), on the need to avoid bankruptcy of Alitalia or its takeover by Air France, on the need to limit the use of wiretapping by prosecutors and magistrates to avoid judicial prosecution of citizens, and on the abolition of the local council property tax. The 2008 Lodo Alfano Act (declared unconstitutional in 2009) granted immunity from prosecution to the four highest political offices in Italy, including Berlusconi. The 2009 Maroni decree (dubbed security package) includes a set of measures against criminality and illegal immigration, allowing for the use of private patrols (however with modest actual impact), criminalisation of stalking and compulsory incarceration for sex offenses. The 2009 fiscal shield provided for the regularisation of capitals illegally detained abroad; local council property tax was abolished the same year.

A Treaty of Friendship was signed between Italy and Libya in 2008 in Benghazi. The treaty provides for the closure of colonial contentious, upon investments from Italy for 5 bln € in 20 years in infrastructure in Libya; for the mutual commitment not to act in a hostile way (criticised as not legally compliant with Italy's NATO obligations). Libyan Dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi subsequently visited Rome in June, July and August 2009, sparkling controversies for his initiatives and speeches. The Berlusconi government was criticised for the lack of firmness toward the Libyan autocracy and the lack of requests of respect of human rights. The case of Eluana Englaro (who had been comatose for 17 years)re-ignited the debate on the right to die in Italy. After the family of Eluana Englaro succeeded in having her right to die recognised by the judges and getting doctors to stop her forced feeding in the way established by the court, the government issued a legally controversial decree to stop the doctor from letting her die, thrusting Italy into a constitutional crisis when the President of the Republic refused to sign the decree. The crisis was defused by Eluana's final death.

The 2009 L'Aquila earthquake caused the death of 308 persons and made about 65,000 homeless. Berlusconi made a point of honour of the reconstruction, although this was accompanied by criticisms, especially by the inhabitants of L'Aquila. The 35th G8 summit of 2009 was hastily moved from La Maddalena to L'Aquila in an effort to promote reconstruction. On 13 December 2009 Berlusconi was hit in the face with an alabaster statuette of Milan Cathedral after a rally in Milan's Piazza Duomo, suffering facial and teeth injuries. The attacker was found to have a history of mental illness but no previous criminal record Between 2009 and 2010, Berlusconi was involved in a prostitution scandal leading to his divorce: he was revealed to having had close acquaintance with pre-18-year-old girls, and several call girls presented proofs of having had sex with him and having been paid for that. In one case, Berlusconi was accused of using his influence to obtain the release of a 17-year-old Moroccan girl, of his acquaitance, who was arrested for theft; Berlusconi pretended she was a close relative of Hosni Mubarak.

In 2010, Berlusconi's party saw the splintering of Gianfranco Fini's new faction, which formed a parliamentary group and voted against him in a no-confidence vote on 14 December 2010. Berlusconi's government was able to avoid no-confidence thanks to support from sparse MPs, but lost a consistent majority in the lower Chamber. A controversial university reform was passed in late 2010 and carries the name of Education minister Mariastella Gelmini. Berlusconi's already low international credibility fell further in 2011 during the European sovereign-debt crisis. Financial markets showed their disapproval through an unsustainable increase of spreads between Italian and German government bond yields. Berlusconi resigned in November 2011; he later blamed German chancellor Angela Merkel.

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