Silvio Berlusconi has been able to bounce back over the years no matter what his detractors threw at him, including outside Milan Cathedral in 2009, when an onlooker hurled a damaging object at the now 75-year-old billionaire.
He is more used to the business and political arena. He took Italy by storm in 1994, forming a new party and winning the country’s most dramatic general election in 50 years. He promised ‘El Dorado’ and new accountability to an electorate tired of left-right uncertainty and corruption.
But the volatility of Italy’s political scene is such that disputes among coalition partners within months saw the government and Berlusconi’s premiership crumple.
The courts saw a lot of him. Berlusconi has faced charges of corruption, fraud and bribery but proved to be a difficult man to pin down — still harder to sentence.
Pundits predicted his battles with the magistrates would turn the tycoon off politics. Then he swept to power, again, in 2001 with the biggest majority in the history of the Italian Republic.
But oh! the gaffes: like the start of Italy’s six-month term as EU president when he likened a German MEP to a Nazi stooge.
In spite of this he kept his popularity at home, though his third term was marked by more controversy.
A sex scandal too far came from allegations that he helped avoid jail for a young woman known as Ruby the Heartbreaker. The calls for him to resign spread, ever louder.
And yet Berlusconi shrugged his way through all of it — until the third largest economy in the euro zone wriggled helpless in the jaws of financial crisis. There were even critics in his own party who lambasted how he handled it.
Austerity protests multiplied, and Berlusconi just survived a confidence vote last month, even with his government in a snare of disputes over policies. It would prove merely a postponement of humiliation.
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