Silvio Berlusconi Silvio Berlusconi  (AFP or licensors)

Silvio Berlusconi dies at 86

Silvio Berlusconi, a three-time prime minister and media tycoon who dominated Italy’s political landscape for nearly three decades, has died at the age of 86. He had been suffering from a rare blood cancer and had recently developed a lung infection.

By Susie Hodges

Silvio Berlusconi was one of Italy’s most flamboyant and polarizing politicians and his passing has been mourned by allies and rivals alike.  Although they clashed on a number of occasions, Prime Minister Gorgia Meloni posted a video tribute to Berlusconi, describing him as one of the most influential men in Italy’s history and praising his courage and determination. Defence Minister Guido Crosetto described Berlusconi’s passing as “the end of an era”.

After making a fortune in media and real estate, Berlusconi moved into politics in the 1990’s and served as prime minister three times despite a career tainted by frequent allegations of corruption and scandals. 

His Forza Italia party was founded in 1993 and a year later he was the first prime minister to be elected without previously having held a government office. His next stint as premier from 2001 to 2006 made him Italy’s longest-serving prime minister since the World War Two. He returned to power in 2008, once again using his charm and negotiating skills to form alliances in the frequently squabbling circles of Italy’s political parties.  Three years later, he was forced to resign amid an acute debt crisis. 

A major setback occurred for Berlusconi in 2013 when he was convicted of tax fraud, a verdict which meant he was banned from holding public office for five years.

However, he bounced back yet again, winning a seat in the European Parliament in 2019 and in the Italian Senate last year. Berlusconi’s party is in the coalition led by Meloni’s Brother of Italy party but his once predominant party took barely 8 percent of the vote in last year’s elections, its lowest ever score.

Berlusconi’s state funeral takes place on Wednesday at Milan’s Duomo Cathedral and will be attended by Italy’s head of state, President Sergio Mattarella. 

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12 June 2023, 15:17