Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is no stranger to sex scandals, but new evidence of a relationship with a teenage belly dancer could finally get him booted from office. Karima Keyek — who goes by the stage name Ruby Rubacuori, or "Ruby Heartstealer" — was detained for shoplifting in Milan last May, and Berlusconi, 74, allegedly telephoned police to ask for her release. Keyek, then 17, reportedly told police she had received money and gifts from Berlusconi, and attended what she called "bunga bunga" sex parties — reportedly a reference to a party joke — at his home. Berlusconi says he did nothing wrong, but opposition politicians are demanding his resignation. Could this finally sink Berlusconi's political career? (Watch an al Jazeera report about Berlusconi's opposition)
Yes, this could finish Berlusconi: Last year, when Berlusconi's wife divorced him over his friendship with an 18-year-old woman, he was able to shrug it off with characteristically brazen defiance, says The Economist. But that might not work this time. He "is much weaker now" — Italians have soured on his economic plans, and his popularity has plummeted. At this point, "even his most faithful supporters must realize he makes Italy an object of derision."
The prime minister has to go: Italy's current situation is "reminiscent of the last days of Salo," says Roberto Mancini in The Guardian, when Mussolini was able to hold onto power in spite of his "isolation and progressive loss of credibility." That Berlusconi is a democratically elected leader and not a dictator is of little import. His rule is "a nightmare from which Italy will wake up to find itself morally and financially bankrupt." Its end cannot come soon enough.
"Berlusconi's Italian farce"
Berlusconi will survive this scandal too: A salacious story like this would ruin any normal world leader, says Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy. But since Berlusconi has already "survived so many of these scandals" it's hard to believe the new revelations will do him in. Most people already assume his private life "resembles a Felliniesque orgy of prurience and corruption" — his rivals will have to do more than demand his resignation to "put an end to all the bunga bunga."
"The Moroccan girl, the president, the dental hygienist, and the 'bunga bunga parties'"