t was Mr Berlusconi's conflicts of interest and his tangled web of judicial proceedings that first led The Economist to judge him unfit to be prime minister (see article). We stick to that view. When he suggests that magistrates should be subject to mental-health checks, or when one of his close associates, a senator who is appealing against conviction for associating with the Mafia, says a convicted mob killer was a hero, there are good reasons to argue that Mr Berlusconi should not lead his country.
Yet 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. Indeed, economic woes provide the third explanation why disillusioned voters preferred him to the centre-left. They felt that Mr Prodi's government had done nothing for them except to increase their tax bills. And, against all previous experience of Mr Berlusconi's tawdry governments, many people still want to believe in the magic that made him Italy's richest man. They hope that some of it may rub off on them, making all Italians richer.