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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid