Last updated at 9:13 AM on 14th June 2011
- Sees his moves overturned on nuclear energy and water privatisation
- His own immunity from trial removed
Most meetings between world leaders are conducted with dignity and decorum, with public remarks confined to platitudes. And a statesman facing prosecution might be expected to keep a dignified silence.
But not Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, even on the day he received a massive slap in the face from his electorate in a referendum challenging his power.
At a Rome press conference yesterday the brass-necked media mogul and politician couldn't help cracking a bunga bunga joke.
Eye catching: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is distracted by the fresco behind him and then jokes as he and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu address the media at Villa Madama in Rome
Berlusconi, 74, who is accused of having underage sex with a teenage belly dancer at his infamous bunga bunga parties made his crude witticism during a meeting with Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu.
As the humiliating referendum results of four ballots came in, the media tycoon turned politician pointed to the painting behind them and said: 'That's a bunga bunga from 1811.'
A man alone: Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi ponders his future during a news conference in Rome
The phrase is said to refer to a crude after-dinner sex game held at the parties that Berlusconi hosted at his villa at Arcore near Milan and attended by dozens of attractive young women.
Prosecutors say that he paid the women with cash and jewellery in return for sex and that among them was the Moroccan-born belly dancer Karima El Mahroug, who at the time was just 17.
Berlusconi then said: 'The guy on the harp is Mariano Apicella (his song writing friend) and that's me.'
Then turning to journalists he added: 'Remember never take seriously someone who takes themselves too seriously.'
Silvio's girl: Nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug poses at a disco in Milan
The Israeli prime minister - who is a close ally of Berlusconi's and was in Rome for a bilateral meeting - appeared to smile uncomfortably before quickly moving the press conference onwards.
The 200-year-old oil painting is by Andrea Appiani and is called Parnaso - which in Greek mythology was the home of the Muses, the goddesses of literature and the arts.
It shows the Muses sitting in a wood with the Greek god Apollo and was originally painted for the royal palace in Monza and now hangs in a gallery in Milan.
Berlusconi is known for his schoolboy humour and has cracked several jokes about the bunga bunga case - one of his favourites is 'How can a man have 33 women - it's too many even for me let alone a man of 30.'
his own count, he’s been targeted in 105 probes and trials, faced 2,500
court hearings but prosecutors have never been able to make a conviction
stick through Italy’s torturous appeals process, and he’s won two
national elections while facing criminal charges.
People power: Romand celebrate following results in Italian referendums on water and nuclear power on Monday seen as a major defeat for Berlusconi
Berlusconi cracked his joke as the results of four referendums came in which more than 50 per cent of the population voted to oppose the privatisation of water and the introduction of nuclear energy.
The results overturn legislation he sponsored, weakening his grip on power and increasing the chance of early elections.
They also voted to overturn a rule brought in by Berlusconi which many said was tailor made to allow him to avoid trial on corruption charges by claiming he had a 'legitimate impediment' in that having to appear in court would conflict with his official duties - as he did yesterday.
Victory march: Supporters of the "Yes" vote at a referendum on nuclear policy, privatisation of water and an immunity law hold a banner celebrating a majority
The results were the second body blow for Berlusconi in two weeks - last month in local elections he lost his home city of Milan to the opposition centre left for the first time in 15 years.
Although the result itself will not be enough to topple him from power it is being seen by many commentators as another nail in his political coffin and adds to speculation that he will not survive until the 2013 general election.
Berlusconi and his centre right coalition allies had appealed for supporters not to vote or vote no but it was not enough and the required turnout of 50 per cent plus one was easily reached, the final figure being 57 per cent.
The referendum was the first time that a quroum had been reached in Italy since 1995.
Berlusconi is being tried in Milan for allegedly paying an underage nightclub dancer for sex. He also faces bribery, fraud and tax-evasion charges in three other trials related to his management of broadcaster Mediaset before he entered politics.
His next court hearing for the sex case was set for Tuesday but he has already said he will not attend.
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Give the man a break
- Sophie, Barcelona,Spain, 14/6/2011 02:54
Berlusconi, shut your trap, and stop making a fool of yourself!
- Chris, Somewhere in UK, 14/6/2011 00:56
He's a billionaire, an Emperor in his own mind, a President ....erm an idiot, an astute politician, an adulterer, a businessman, a comedian and represents Italy on the World stage. He's just a little misunderstood.
- Non-stop, London, 13/6/2011 20:45
He has proved himself to be a dirty old man. We all know that. The whole world knows that. Shame he is still in power. I hope he has not got long there. He needs to be thrown out.
- Jessand, Putney, SW London, 13/6/2011 19:43
to say he is an embarassment is an understatement.
- loris, milan, 13/6/2011 19:34
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