Anne Applebaum in Slate:
Silvio Berlusconi has been accused of bribery, tax evasion, corruption, and subversion of the press. His wife has left him on the grounds that he consorts with prostitutes and holds orgies at his villa in Sardinia. He makes embarrassing jokes (and then repeats them, as he did with the one about President Barack Obama's “suntan“) and periodically disappears to undergo more plastic surgery. He is at war with the Italian legal establishment, with almost all the journalists who don't work for him, and with the Catholic Church. Last week, the Italian constitutional court lifted his immunity from prosecution, which means Italians can look forward to a whole new series of law suits and scandals.
Yet by far the most interesting thing about the Italian prime minister is this: Italians keep voting for him. The somewhat ragged coalition he leads—Il Popolo della Libertà, the People of Freedom—won a decisive general election victory in 2008 and trounced the opposition in European parliamentary elections in June 2009. Whether or not you agree with his daughter, who says he “will go down in the history books as the longest-serving and most loved leader in the history of the Italian republic,” you cannot argue with the fact that he has been the dominant force in Italian politics since he first became prime minister in 1994. But why?