News / Europe

    Self-Made Berlusconi: Power, Pizzaz and Faux-Pas

    Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi (C) speaks with Justice Minister Roberto Maroni (R) and League North Party leader Umberto Bossi during a finance vote at the parliament in Rome, November 8, 2011
    Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi (C) speaks with Justice Minister Roberto Maroni (R) and League North Party leader Umberto Bossi during a finance vote at the parliament in Rome, November 8, 2011

    Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is no stranger to the spotlight.

    The self-made media mogul has been elected prime minister three times, recently telling political supporters Italy had "no alternative" to his leadership, though he also said being prime minister was a "burden that I personally would be glad to be rid of."

    Through it all, the 75-year-old Berlusconi has constantly stayed in the headlines both for his triumphs and his gaffes, holding onto power despite ongoing sex scandals, accusations of fraud and tax evasion and declining popularity.

    The man destined to become one of Italy's richest men was born in Milan, Italy on September 29, 1936. He turned to the spotlight early on, earning money by singing in nightclubs and on cruise ships to pay for his education.

    After graduating from law school in 1961, Berlusconi entered the construction business. Roughly 10 years later, he founded a cable television station called Telemilano. The station became the start of a vast media empire called Mediaset.  

    Mediaset is now part of Berlusconi's Fininvest holding company, which includes several television networks, newspapers, Italy's largest publisher and the football club A.C. Milan.

    Berlusconi decided to enter politics and, in 1994, founded the conservative Forza Italia party, ran for Prime Minister and won, forming a coalition with the right-wing National Alliance and Northern League.

    Berlusconi's first go-around as prime minister ended quickly - his government collapsed after just seven months, after he was indicted on charges of tax fraud.  

    Berlusconi was eventually convicted on those charges but they were later overturned and he ran again in 1996, losing out to the left-leaning Romano Prodi.

    Despite the defeat at the polls, Berlusconi refused to give up and was elected prime minister for a second time in 2001. He remained prime minister until 2006, becoming Italy's longest serving prime minister since World War II.

    A center-left coalition led by Romano Prodi defeated Mr. Berlusconi in 2006, but Berlusconi was reelected in 2008, following Prodi's resignation.

    Throughout his three tenures as prime minister, Berlusconi has been followed by controversy and headlines.

    Shortly after his 2006 defeat, he made news by passing out at the podium during a political rally. He was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat and later flew to the United States for surgery to implant a pacemaker.

    Silvio Berlusconi's reputation for partying with women has also grown since his 2008 election.

    In May 2009, his second wife announced she was getting a divorce after he had been photographed at a birthday party for Noemi Letizia, an 18-year-old aspiring model. Berlusconi denied any charges of wrongdoing.

    In July, some Italian news organizations said they had audio recordings of Berlusconi talking to an escort, Patrizia D'Addario, who said she was one of several women paid to attend parties at Berlusconi's residence in Rome.

    Berlusconi denied the charges but, in his first remarks after the tapes were released, told the public he was "no saint."

    Most recently, Berlusconi is awaiting trial for allegedly paying to have sex with underage girls, including a 17-year-old nightclub dancer known as "Ruby." He has denied the accusation.

    A November 2010 file photo of a Moroccan girl nicknamed Ruby, who allegedly received payment from PM Berlusconi in return for sex, at a party in a Genoa disco
    A November 2010 file photo of a Moroccan girl nicknamed Ruby, who allegedly received payment from PM Berlusconi in return for sex, at a party in a Genoa disco

    Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, denied the two had sex, though she admitted accepting $9,000 to attend a party at the prime minister's home.  

    The 75-year-old has also become known for his political gaffes.

    Shortly after U.S. President Barack Obama was elected in November 2008, the Italian leader said Obama, who is African American, had a "good tan." And in April 2009, he raised eyebrows during a gathering of world leaders in Germany, after he missed a group photo while talking on his mobile phone.

    Earlier that week, Berlusconi agitated Britain's Queen Elizabeth at the G-20 summit in London by loudly calling out to U.S. President Obama.

    Berlusconi estimates he has made about 2,500 court appearances during the past two decades, but despite the controversies and a plunging approval ratings - one recent poll estimated his support at 24 percent - he continues to hold onto power, dismissing ongoing calls for his resignation.

    The U.S. magazine Forbes ranks Mr. Berlusconi 21st on its list of the world's most powerful people. It ranks him as 118 on its list of the world's richest people with an estimated net worth of $6.2 billion, as of November 2011.


    Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

    You May Like

    Video For Many US Veterans, the Vietnam War Continues

    More than 40 years after it ended, war in Vietnam and America’s role in it continue to provoke bitter debate, especially among those who fought in it

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    100 immigrants graduated Friday as US citizens in New York, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in cities across country

    Family's Fight Pays Off With Arlington Cemetery Burial Rights for WASPs

    Policy that allowed the Women Airforce Service Pilots veterans to receive burial rites at Arlington had been revoked in 2015

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora