Moreover, there is the perception of a personal relationship between Prime Minister Berlusconi and Muammar Gaddafi—which a Bloomberg news headline this morning splashily termed a "Slavish Courtship" on Berlusconi's behalf.
For example: "Berlusconi shut down the city's biggest park in June 2009 to allow the visiting Libyan leader and his entourage of all- female bodyguards to set up camp by the 16th-century Villa Doria Pamphili. A year earlier, Italy agreed to pay $5 billion over 25 years to its former colony in reparations."
Italian prosecutors have alleged that Berlusconi paid an underage 17-year-old nightclub dancer for sex—then improperly used his office to influence a criminal investigation concerning the girl.
(Note: Even in Italy, this is considered bad form.)
Berlusconi has denied having sex with the girl.
Back on the international front, as Bloomberg reports, Berlusconi's handling of his relationship with Gaddafi, in the wake of the Libyan crisis, has become yet another liability:
"As the first reports of civil unrest began to filter through from Libya this month, Berlusconi was reluctant to criticize his ally. The premier said Feb. 19, four days after anti-government protests began, that he did not want to 'disturb' Qaddafi and had not called him."
On Feb. 21st, Berlusconi eventually condemned Gadaffi's use of force as "unacceptable" and expressed his desire for a common effort "to prevent the Libyan crisis from degenerating into a civil war that will have consequences difficult to predict."
But the bad political optics in Italy continue—at a time when Prime Minister Berlusconi can ill-afford the negative press.