Former Prime Minister of Italy, Silvio Berlusconi has died aged 86 at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan.
Berlusconi first came to office in 1994 and led four governments until 2011, when he stepped down after losing parliament’s trust following a highly-publicized sex scandal.
He encountered a number of legal issues throughout his political career, including accusations of bribery, tax fraud, and having sex with a minor prostitute. Despite being repeatedly found guilty, he avoided going to prison because of his advanced age and the passing of the statute of limitations.
Born in Milan on September 29, 1936, Berlusconi began his career by engaging in the sale of vacuum cleaners, before setting up a construction company. He made his first fortune in real estate and construction, then slowly expanded, notably to the world of mass media.
Between the late 1970s and 1980s, Berlusconi established a media empire. It included a publishing house and popular cable TV network, Mediaset, that was recognized as the biggest competitor to Italy’s state-owned television. Before venturing into politics, he bought the popular AC Milan football team in 1986, saving it from bankruptcy.
Berlusconi founded his political party, Forza Italia, in 1993 and he became Prime Minister a year later, leading a right-wing coalition government. In 1996, he lost the elections to a left-wing party led by Romano Prodi.
In 2001, Berlusconi took office again as Prime Minister, presiding over Italy’s longest-serving administration since World War Two. He was charged with embezzlement, tax fraud, fraudulent accounting, and attempting to bribe a court. He was found guilty of some of these charges, but not all of them. He was found not guilty of corruption in 2004 after a four-year trial, and Prodi defeated him once more in 2006.
After renaming his party to People of Freedom, Berlusconi earned a fourth term in the office in 2008. He faced further allegations of affairs and corruption and in 2009, a lot of people took to the streets, calling for his resignation. In 2010, he had not only lost voters’ support but also his majority in the parliament. He resigned in 2011.
Berlusconi was elected as an MEP at the European parliament electionsin 2019 and he returned to the Italian Senate after winning a seat in the 2022 Italian general election.
In April, Berlusconi was treated for a lung infection linked to chronic leukemia. Doctors at San Raffaele revealed at that time that, the ex-Prime Minister had been suffering from a rare form of blood cancer, chronic myelomonocyte leukemia.
He has had many bouts of illnesses since contracting COVID-19 in 2020. So far, there has been no official confirmation of the immediate cause of his demise.
A Flood Of Tributes
In reaction to Berlusconi’s demise, a lot of people have flooded social media with their tributes.
Brothers of Italy, the political party which heads Italy’s ruling government, tweeted in remembrance of Berlusconi. The party noted, “Heartfelt thoughts to his family and loved ones.
“We will remember him as one of the most important, decisive and appreciated figures in Italian political history,” the tweet read.
Additionally, Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni posted a video tribute to the late former Prime Minister, saying that she remembers Berlusconi as “one of the most influential men in Italy’s history”. She added, “With him, Italy learned that it should never have limits imposed on it.”
Former Prime Minister and leader of the political party Italia Viva, Matteo Renzi, paid tribute to Berlusconi. He noted in a tweet that Berlusconi made history.
“Many loved him, many hated him: everyone today must recognize that his impact on political but also economic, sporting and television life was unprecedented.
“Today Italy mourns together with its family, its loved ones, its companies, its party. To all those who loved him, my most affectionate and most sincere embrace. In these hours I carry with me the memories of our meetings… of our agreements, of our clashes.”Matteo Renzi
Italy’s Defense Minister, Guido Crosetto, also paid tribute to Berlusconi, stating that the former Italian Prime Minister leaves behind a “huge void.”
AC Monza, the football team in Italy’s top division owned by Silvio Berlusconi since 2018, paid tribute to him on its website.
“Forever with us. Adriano Galliani and all AC Monza mourn the loss of Silvio Berlusconi. A void that can never be filled, forever with us. Thank you for everything President.”AC Monza
Moreover, AC Milan paid a tribute.
In a tweet, the football team stated, “Tomorrow, we will dream of new ambitions, create new challenges, and seek new victories.
“Which will represent the good, the strong, and the true that lies inside us, in all of us who shared this adventure of binding our lives to a dream called Milan. Thank you, Mr. President. Always with us,” the tweet added.