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YOU could be a former topless model and yet become a minister in Italy. And add a dash of glamour to the G- 8 summit, which you get to co- host after the first lady refuses to play her part following reports of her husband gifting a diamond necklace to a nubile 18- year- old. That's Italian politics for you. And its ability to make pinup models like Mara Carfagna the country's equal opportunities minister.

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's billionaire premier, has survived a rough year that saw his wife asking for a Au 3.2 million ( Rs 214.9 million) divorce settlement, and tales of his being a stallion at 70- plus tumbling out of the closet, what with leaked audio tapes and photos of women sunbathing with very little on them at his sea- side villa.

The bevy of beauties in his life may have caused many a flutter in his pacemaker, but Berlusconi's popularity ratings haven't dropped significantly. He remains the longest- serving Italian prime minister since the second world war, in his third term in office -- albeit with a bloodied nose.

Ironically, French first lady Carla Bruni, also a former topless model, who skipped attending the G- 8 summit this July, is said to have found it inappropriate for Carfagna to co- host the summit.

Bruni's dislike of Berlusconi is wellknown.

She also wanted to avoid seeing the Pope, who is believed to have advised her husband, and French president, Nicolas Sarkozy to leave her when he had started dating her.

Sarkozy could never have become the American president, for the electorate in the country with the highest divorce rate is notoriously conservative in its approach to the private lives of its public figures.

Long before Bruni had waltzed into EelysE[umlaut]e Palace as Sarkozy's third wife, he, as the mayor of Neuilly- sur- Seine, pronounced a Cecilia Ciganer- Albeniz and a Jacques Martin as man and wife. Cecila left Martin soon thereafter, and became Sarkozy's second wife in 1996.

Soon after Sarkozy became French president, his marriage with Cecilia fell apart. He married Bruni, within three months after they started dating.

Bruni has famously said she finds monogamy boring, and had a string of lovers -- including Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton. But her past hasn't really hurt her husband's political career. What has hurt them, though, is her extravagant lifestyle, her ' coldness' and her alleged interference in Sakozy's official work.

Different nations have different ways of dealing with political peccadilloes. Last May, the Duma voted 339- 1 in favour of the suspension and closing down of media outlets deemed guilty of libel, after a daily reported that Russian president Vladimir Putin had split with his wife to marry a former Olympic gymnast, Alina Kabaeva, 31 years younger to him. When Kabaeva -- the most decorated gymnast in history -- recently gave birth to a son, there were rumours that he was Putin's, but no major Russian media outlet reported it.

In America, many a political career has hit choppy waters following illicit exchanges of body fluids. Bill Clinton had to face an impeachment motion in 1998, but was spared the ignominy of having to leave office, when a certain stained blue dress of White House intern Monica Lewinsky made international headlines. Their affair continues to be media fodder, with Lewinsky claiming that Clinton had lied under oath.

Words can often come back to bite you, and last August, North Carolina senator John Edwards, who had condemned Clinton's affair with Lewinsky, was forced to eat crow. He had to confess to his own " serious error in judgment" -- a liaison with his campaign video producer. Edwards continues to deny rumours of a love child, who is believed to have been born even as Edwards's wife battled with cancer.

Another scandal that rocked American politics was when New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, famous for his crackdown on prostitution, was found to be involved with call girls himself. An FBI inquiry revealed he was the ' Client 9' of the Emperors Club. He was forced to admit his " private failings" in public. The call girl who outted him -- Kirsten, aka Ashley Dupre -- has been given a weekly advice column in The New York Post . A beleaguered Tiger Woods may need to take some tips for life after transgressions from Clinton, Spitzer and Edwards.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Dec 20, 2009
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