Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi has won the latest round in his continuing battle versus the Constitutional Court. Although his recent victory is far from decisive in the larger view, the Prime Minister has scored a significant point that will give him a much needed reprieve.
Return for a moment to October 2009. It was then that the Constitutional Court invalidated a parliamentary law whose objective had been to be immunize the Prime Minister from criminal prosecution during his tenure as head of government. The high court’s ruling therefore paved the way for a court to hear charges against the Prime Minister. The trial for alleged bribery was subsequently set for December 4, 2009.
But just last week, Parliament passed a law permitting the Prime Minister to excuse himself from trial in light of his official duties and given the stated risk that attending to these legal matters would compromise his ability to govern.
This new law authorizes the Prime Minister’s trial to be suspended for up to 18 months. The Telegraph reports that this timing will see the charges expire pursuant to the relevant statute of limitations.
It remains to be seen whether this law will reach the Constitutional Court and, if it does, how the Court will judge its constitutionality.