Silvio Berlusconi, the former Prime Minister of Italy and a prominent billionaire businessman who shaped the country’s political landscape, passed away at the age of 86. His death occurred at Milan’s San Raffaele hospital, where he was receiving treatment for leukemia and a recent lung infection.
Throughout his life, Berlusconi faced various health challenges, including heart ailments, prostate cancer, and a battle with COVID-19 in 2020.
Berlusconi’s political party, Forza Italia, formed part of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing coalition. Although Berlusconi himself did not hold a government position at the time of his passing, his death is expected to have a significant impact on Italian politics, potentially leading to a period of instability in the coming months.
Berlusconi’s career was marred by numerous sex scandals, corruption allegations, and legal troubles. He was previously convicted of tax fraud, resulting in a two-year ban from holding office, although he was exempted from serving a four-year prison sentence.
One of the notable accusations against him involved the payment for sexual services to an underage individual. While he was initially convicted, he was later found not guilty on appeal. Nevertheless, these scandals and legal battles shadowed his political journey for many years.
Berlusconi’s personal life and controversial behavior often made headlines worldwide. His infamous “bunga bunga” parties, along with his reputation as a philanderer, attracted media attention. His second wife, Veronica Lario, divorced him, citing her inability to live with a man who associated with minors.
Initially, Lario received a significant monthly maintenance payout, but Berlusconi successfully appealed the decision, ultimately reducing the amount to zero. These scandals, combined with Italy’s economic challenges during the 2011 debt crisis, contributed to his resignation as Prime Minister.
Despite his tumultuous personal and political life, Berlusconi managed to rebuild his image over time and became regarded as an elder statesman who tempered extremist forces within his conservative camp. In 2022, he held a symbolic marriage ceremony with his partner Marta Fascina, who was 53 years younger than him.
Berlusconi’s larger-than-life personality and controversial statements, which often included off-color jokes, set him apart from traditional politicians in the European Union.
However, behind his clownish demeanor and multiple plastic surgeries, he possessed a shrewd political acumen and a knack for understanding the concerns of ordinary Italians.
Reflecting on his political career, Berlusconi expressed no regrets while feeling a sense of betrayal from fellow politicians. “All I know is that in both foreign and domestic politics, I never made a single mistake,” he stated in an interview with Chi magazine in 2016. “But when I come to think about it, I cannot recall the name of a single friend in politics.”