Silvio Berlusconi is a former Prime Minister of Italy. He has a controlling interest in Mediaset, the largest broadcasting company in Italy, and has a net worth estimated at $7.1 billion. He served in the position of prime minister for three terms, serving a total of nine years. He is the longest serving Italian leader since Benito Mussolini. His life and political career have been marked by a litany of head-swimming escapades.
Apparently Berlusconi took up a political career to forestall personal bankruptcy and also as a path to inoculate himself from criminal convictions. His associates were informed of this intent, and that did not detract from his rise. Supporters hailed Berlusconi as “an outsider who was going to bring a new efficiency to the public bureaucracy and reform the state from top to bottom.”
Obvious conflicts of interest roiled his tenure, as he used his business clout to buck up his political position. Additionally, the government under Berlusconi enacted laws to shorten penalties for tax fraud, solving some of his personal issues.
Fisticuffs with Italian media have been notorious. Berlusconi accused Enzo Biagi and Michele Santoro (journalists) and Daniele Luttazzi (a comedian) of using television “as a criminal means of communication.” This resulted in these personalities losing their jobs.
In another instance the government censored a satirical program. Comedian Sabina Guzzanti had criticized the Berlusconi media conglomerate. Mediaset sued RAI, the offending company, and Guzzanti’s program was canceled.
Berlusconi’s administration passed laws having the intent and the effect of delaying court trials against him.
Berlusconi’s close ties to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin raised some eyebrows. Berlusconi’s friend, Bruno Mentasti-Granelli, held a 33% share in the South Stream pipeline, and the Italian government-owned company Eni engaged Gazprom, owned by the Russian government, to build it. A communication revealed by Wikileaks showed Putin promised to cut Berlusconi in on the profits from pipelines developed by Gazprom.
Berlusconi acquired a reputation for childish social blunders. He suggested that German politician Martin Schulz should portray a Nazi guard on film. This after Schulz criticized Berlusconi’s domestic policies.
Berlusconi’s social gaffes have not been confined to foreign politicians. He pointed out that “female politicians from the right were ‘more beautiful’ and that ‘the left has no taste, even when it comes to women'”
Berlusconi’s wife Veronica Lario went public over his choice of hot babes to represent his political party. The spat devolved into a public dissolution of his marriage, pointedly in relation to the attention he was pouring onto an 18-year-old bimbo.
And there is so much more. Berlusconi exited Italian politics a few years back, but I, and others, continued for a while to enjoy the comedy of Italian politics.
More recently I have stopped laughing.