So remember all those pending criminal investigations The Economist reported on in 2001? Do you think Berlusconi might have used his power at prime minister since taking office to, say, get charges downgraded or brought to different jurisdictions, laws rewritten, or even lawsuits brought against that aforementioned magazine? Yes, says The Economist. So the magazine pens an an open letter to the Italian leader, highlighting his successful passage of "a law making Italy's prime minister, along with the country's other top officials, immune from prosecution during their time in office." The magazine writes: "A serving prime minister should be answerable, on this argument, to the court of public opinion, not to courts of law. So, in an effort to make Mr Berlusconi answerable to the public, The Economist is this week sending him a challenge." The magazine sent a dossier on Berlusconi's alleged misconduct to him, asking for an official response, like any good journalist. (Unsurprisngly, it doesn't seem like anything came out of its request.) More than addressing the prime minister, the magazine pleads with Italy: "Does it matter whether Italy is run by a man investigated by magistrates for money-laundering and accused by prosecutors of being a perjurer, a falsifier of company accounts and a briber of judges, among other things?"
It's 2006, which means Berlusconi is up for reelection! Do you think The Economist has anything to say about this? Of course it does, pleading with Italians to not give him their votes . The magazine trots out its by now well-worn arguments that he's a criminal and conning businessman. But the magazine has an ace up its sleeves: with five years in office, Berlusconi now also has a record as prime minister. "Italy now has the slowest-growing large economy in Europe. With wages still rising even though productivity is not, and with currency devaluation no longer possible now that Italy is in the euro, Italian business is fast losing competitiveness." The magazine also calls him out out for not keeping Italy's budget deficit and national debt in check. "The conclusion from these five years is that Mr Berlusconi is not and never will be a bold economic reformer of the kind that Italy desperately needs."
Italy booted the Berlusconi from office in 2006, but he's back in the prime minister's office in 2008. So, The Economist reiterates its claims that he is unfit for office--except this time, it gives Berlusconi a little wiggle room to fall into its good graces. It writes "the biggest challenge now for Mr Berlusconi does not concern conflicts of interest, court cases or the Mafia. It is the dire state of the Italian economy." After Romano Prodi's inept two-year rule as PM, The Economist is begrudgingly ready to give Berlusconi a second chance, especially as the Italian economy is starting to show the troubling signs of a collapse. "But if the government succeeds in reforming, our verdict on Mr Berlusconi would have to be tempered by the acknowledgment that even he is capable of improvement," concluding that Berlusconi's "comfortable majority [in parliament] means that he has no more excuses for putting off reforms."