Humiliating defeat for Berlusconi as party loses power base
SILVIO BERLUSCONI suffered a humiliating defeat yesterday after his party lost control of Milan, his political power base and home city, after nearly 20 years.
The voting result raised questions over the viability of Mr Berlusconi's centre-right coalition, two years before Italy faces a general election, and on his personal popularity, which has been eroded by corruption cases and the state of the economy.
The blow to the prime minister came on the eve of the resumption of a trial in which he is accused of abuse of office and paying for sex with an under-age prostitute known as Ruby the Heart Stealer.
The affair seemed to have taken its toll on Mr Berlusconi and his party's fortunes not just in Milan but also in Naples, another key battleground, where the centre-left also triumphed.
The defeats came during a second round of voting in local elections, two weeks after the first round led to results so close that run-offs were required.
Mr Berlusconi (74) had said he would interpret the outcome in Milan as a referendum on his nearly three-year-old government.
He said anyone who voted for the left "lacked a brain" and that Milan under a centre-left administration risked being turned into an "Islamic city".
But voters ignored Mr Berlusconi's warnings as his candidate, Letizia Moratti, was beaten by a centre-left rival, Giuliano Pisapia, by a convincing 55pc to 45pc. In Naples, Mr Berlusconi's man, Gianni Lettieri, also trailed his opponent.
Mr Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing in the sex trial, insisting that he did not have sexual relations with the dancer, Karima El Mahroug, then aged 17. (© Daily Telegraph, London)