Former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi dies at 86 after leukemia battle

Italy mourns the passing of Silvio Berlusconi, its former Prime Minister and billionaire businessman, who died at the age of 86. Known for creating the country’s largest media company and transforming the political landscape, Berlusconi had faced several legal and sex scandals throughout his career. His health had been in decline in recent months, including a battle with COVID-19 in 2020 and a diagnosis of leukaemia in April 2023.

Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto expressed his condolences on Twitter, stating that Berlusconi’s death leaves a “huge void” and describing him as a great man. Berlusconi’s political party, Forza Italia, was a coalition partner with the current Premier Giorgia Meloni, a far-right leader who came to power last year.

Alan Friedman, the author of a biography on Berlusconi, described him as a “very historic figure in post-war Italian history” and a controversial character. Berlusconi was known for his populist approach to politics in the 1990s and was loved by his followers.

Berlusconi’s impact on Italian politics was significant, as he was the longest-serving prime minister and considered a kingmaker in politics. He also transformed television with his group, Media set, which influenced Italian media and daily life.

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Despite facing numerous scandals, Berlusconi remained a powerful figure. Investigations targeted his businesses, including AC Milan, and his notorious “bunga bunga” parties. Only one case led to a conviction, a tax fraud case involving the sale of movie rights in his business empire. He was spared prison due to his age and was ordered to do community service. Berlusconi was subsequently stripped of his Senate seat and banned from running or holding public office for six years.

Berlusconi continued to lead Forza Italia, the centre-right party he created in the 1990s. However, with no clear successor, the party’s support dwindled. Berlusconi eventually returned to office, being elected to the European Parliament at age 82 and then to the Italian Senate last year.

As Italy’s political right shifted, Berlusconi’s party was eclipsed by the League, led by anti-migrant populist Matteo Salvini, and Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which has roots in neo-fascism. Berlusconi also lost his standing as Italy’s richest man, although he remained a billionaire due to his expansive media holdings and luxury real estate.

Friedman, the author, summed up Berlusconi’s legacy as a “controversial figure, who never really accomplished anything on economic policy, [or by] doing great reforms in Italy. And he was mostly interested in protecting himself. So he will be considered a brilliant but flawed figure in history.”

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Matthew Coles

Matthew is a British journalist with a unique flair in reporting about the latest news and events happening in Europe. Matthew focuses on producing well-researched, balanced, and narrative-driven content related to both national and regional interests across various European countries. He is passionate about discovering the diverse cultures found within Europe and showcasing them through his insightful articles.

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