Social Democrats, conservatives and Greens formed a governing coalition in the Austrian province of Carinthia on Tuesday after an election rout of the far-right Freedom Party in its traditional southern stronghold.
Corruption scandals punished the anti-immigrant Freedom Party in Carinthia, where late leader Joerg Haider had built it into a national political force. Billionaire Frank Stronach’s new eurosceptic party has also sapped its support.
This has clouded prospects for the Freedom Party - which opposes bailing out euro zone laggards and wants a referendum on quitting the 17-member currency bloc - of joining a national coalition after elections due by late September.
Corruption scandals in China have long been packaged with sexual indiscretion. For almost every fallen official there are tales of paramours, sometimes too numerous to seem plausible. Liu Zhijun, the former Railway Minister who is awaiting trial on corruption allegations, was reported to have had 18 mistresses. Shanghai Communist Party secretary Chen Liangyu, who was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2008 for accepting massive bribes, was accused by the party leadership of being a morally decadent philanderer who traded “power for sexual favors.” When Bo Xilai, the purged former leader of the southwestern city of Chongqing, was ejected from the Communist Party in September, the allegation that he had “improper relationships” with several women was the least shocking development after months of revelations about corruption, murder and abuse of power.
So when a municipal official in Chongqing was caught up in a sex-and-corruption scandal last week, the only surprise was the order of the revelations — first the sex, then the corruption — and the level of detail. Lei Zhengfu, the Communist Party secretary of Chongqing’s Beibei district, was removed from his office on Friday pending an official investigation, but not before he became widely known in China as the balding, bug-eyed, body-built-by-banquets star of a sex tape that circulated widely online last week. The 36-second video is unforgettable in the worst sense of the word. Even casual users of social media in China were subjected to repeated appearances of the naked Lei with a then 18-year-old mistress.
When Silvio Berlusconi resigned after dominating Italy’s political scene for two decades, he left a country in financial shambles and a personal legacy tarnished by sex and corruption scandals.
Commentators called it the end of an era.
Eight months later, the political world is abuzz with signs that the 75-year-old media mogul is plotting a return to power that even his closest allies had considered impossible.
Even as his one-time friend, now bitter foe Gianfranco Fini appeared incredulous in a television interview Thursday night — saying “Italians no longer believe in miracles” — Berlusconi’s allies were talking him up.
“He’s our strongest candidate,” said Angelino Alfano, a former justice minister previously considered as Berlusconi’s heir apparent.
Berlusconi himself has yet to commit. But his friends are now openly calling him a candidate and spreading reports that business leaders are pushing him to enter the race for elections next spring. He reportedly has designed a new symbol with a patriotic touch for his party — a kite in the Italian tricolor.