Mafia collusion ruling deepens Italy’s political divides

The deadlock in Italian politics for the past two-and-a-half months shows little sign of loosening after a court ruled that former government officials colluded with Sicily's Mafia in the early 1990s.

Mafia collusion ruling deepens Italy's political divides
A painting made by street artist Sirante showing Silvio Berlusconi, Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio featured as in the original Caravaggio painting "I Bari". Photo: AFP

A third round of talks for a new government between the Five Star Movement (M5S) and Matteo Salvini's nationalist League, which leads a right-wing coalition that includes Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, went nowhere on Friday as M5S leader Luigi Di Maio continues to demand Salvini dump his scandal-dogged partner.

Berlusconi was not involved in the Mafia trial in Palermo, however his close ally Marcello Dell'Utri, fellow Forza Italia founder, was sentenced to 12 years in prison along with other ex-officials and mafia bosses.

The verdicts will likely be subject to a lengthy appeals process.

Prosecutors had alleged that after the assassinations of two top anti-Mafia judges in 1992, senior Italian officials engaged in secret talks with the mob to end its bombing campaign.

“What emerged is that elements of the state acted as a go-between for mafia demands while judges and citizens were blown to bits,” lead prosecutor Nino Di Matteo told daily Corriere Della Sera on Saturday, claiming that a link had been established between the Mafia “and Berlusconi the politician.”

Di Maio, who views the 81-year-old ex-premier as a symbol of political corruption, asked supporters late on Friday: “How could I come here if I had made an agreement with Silvio Berlusconi?”

“How could I say that we're not like those who came before us?” he added at a campaign event in Campobasso, ahead of an election Sunday in the tiny southern region of Molise where his anti-establishment movement faces off against right-wing forces.

Berlusconi, banned from public office following a 2013 tax fraud conviction, on Friday said Italians had “voted badly” in the March 4th general election and that he'd only engage M5S politicians to “clean the toilets.”

He was speaking at an event in support of Forza Italia's candidate Donato Toma in the Molise election.

Di Maio, 31, and Berlusconi's bickering has created a roadblock to the formation of a new government and left Salvini with little room to manoeuvre.

The 45-year-old is eyeing elections on April 29th in the northeastern region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, where a League candidate backed by Forza Italia is favourite to win.

On Friday Salvini expressed his annoyance that “an ally that up until yesterday asked for cohesion, consistency and loyalty … spends his time insulting millions of Italians.”



Italy plans to stop ‘revolving door’ between judges and politicians

Italian lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a planned reform aimed at stopping the 'revolving door' between justice and government, as part of wider changes to the country's creaking judicial system.

Italy plans to stop 'revolving door' between judges and politicians

The proposed reform, which still has to be approved by the Italian Senate in the coming weeks, imposes significant limitations on the number of magistrates, prosecutors and judges looking to go into politics – a frequent move in Italy.

Under the submitted changes, a magistrate wishing to stand for election, whether national, regional or local, will not be able to do so in the region where they have worked over the previous three years.

At the end of their mandate, magistrates who have held elective positions will not be able to return to the judiciary – they will be moved to non-jurisdictional posts at, for example, the Court of Auditors or the Supreme Court of Cassation, according to local media reports.

Furthermore, magistrates who have applied for elective positions but have not been successful for at least three years will no longer be able to work in the region where they ran for office. 

The reform is part of a wider programme of changes to Italy’s tortuous judicial system. This is required by the European Commission to unlock billions of euros in the form of post-pandemic recovery funds.

Public perception of the independence of Italian courts and judges is among the worst in Europe, according to the EU’s justice scoreboard.