A NORMALLY unflappable Silvio Berlusconi snapped yesterday, launching a blistering attack on what he described as "feminist communist female judges" who have ordered him to pay his ex-wife a €245,000 a-day divorce settlement.
The comments have added to the drama surrounding the former Italian premier's return to public life amid his continued sexual and legal scandals and his new role as the leader of a centre-right coalition campaigning in Italy's general elections in February.
Italian media initially reported that Mr Berlusconi's divorce from his second wife, Veronica Lario, would cost him €36m a year.
That breaks down to €3m a month – or about €100,000 a day.
But yesterday Mr Berlusconi said he was ordered by the Milan magistrates to pay €36m a year, with another €72m in back payments.
"These are three women judges, feminists and communists, okay?" the three-time ex-premier said. "These are the Milan judges who have persecuted me since 1994."
Mr Berlusconi has long accused Milan prosecutors and magistrates of mounting politically inspired cases against him, and he frequently accuses his legal and political enemies of being communists.
One of the targets of the attack, Milan chief judge Livia Pomodoro, said yesterday that she was "surprised and hurt" by the remarks, and "as a woman I am degraded".
While criticism of the justice system is healthy, "I believe that qualifying a decision as biased because it was made by women, rather than men, does not seem right to me," Ms Pomodoro said.
Mr Berlusconi's mood will not have been helped by the news that despite his best efforts he has little chance of destabilising a centre-left government after the country holds elections.
It appears that outgoing premier Mario Monti is the most likely to become kingmaker, according to one of Italy's top experts on voting trends. Political scientist Roberto D'Alimonte said the most likely result was a centre-left government strong enough to rule alone or in coalition with Mr Monti's centrists.
This prediction may reassure investors worried by the risk that Mr Berlusconi could play a spoiler role, returning Italy to the kind of instability that forced his replacement by Mr Monti in November 2011 as Italy careened towards a Greek-type meltdown.