Breaking News
Investing Pro 0
Free Webinar - The Role of Psychology in Trading - Thursday, December 8, 2022 | 04:00PM EST Enroll Now

Ageing 'giant' Berlusconi seeks lead role at Italy's election

World Sep 12, 2022 04:51AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former Italian Prime Minister and leader of the Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party Silvio Berlusconi attends a rally in Rome, Italy, April 9, 2022. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo 2/2

By Gavin Jones

ROME (Reuters) - Shrugging off old age, ill-health, sex scandals and a criminal conviction, Silvio Berlusconi is in the thick of yet another Italian election campaign as the four-times prime minister battles for a central role after the vote.

Berlusconi, who will turn 86 four days after the Sept. 25 ballot, looks sure to be on the winning side, even if he is now the junior partner in the rightist alliance he used to dominate.

Opinion polls give his conservative Forza Italia party around 8% of the vote. That compares with 12% for Matteo Salvini's League and 24% for Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy, its two hard-right allies.

Together, the bloc should easily prevail over its divided leftist and centrist opponents, the polls suggest.

Meloni looks set to carry most clout in a future coalition, but she will probably still need Berlusconi's support to get it off the ground, allowing him to punch above his weight in terms of policy decisions and government posts.

Berlusconi, who first ruled Italy in 1994, was widely written off after his last government was sunk 11 years ago by a debt crisis and scandal over his "bunga bunga" sex parties at his villa outside Milan.

He was convicted of tax fraud in 2013, had major heart surgery in 2016, became badly ill with COVID in 2020 and has been in and out of hospital over the last year with various ailments. He often slurs his words and is prone to confusion, yet retirement seems the last thing on the billionaire media magnate's mind.

"He wants to stay alive in a political sense, with things to do, things to offer, he wants to 'be there' for as long as possible," said Giovanni Orsina, a politics professor at Rome's Luiss university who has closely followed Berlusconi's career.


Berlusconi unsuccessfully bid to become head of state in January and could be in the running for Senate speaker in the new parliament. Even without a formal role, he will be active behind the scenes to try to influence government policy.

He has cultivated an image as the more moderate leader in the rightist bloc, but his election pledges are as generous as ever, including minimum pensions of at least 1,000 euros ($991) per month and a single income tax rate of 23%.

Most analysts say these are unsustainable for Italy's fragile public finances.

He also contributed to the downfall of outgoing premier Mario Draghi, joining forces with the League and the 5-Star Movement, another ruling party, in refusing to back the former European Central Bank chief in a parliamentary confidence vote.

Berlusconi has strengthened his ties with League leader Salvini in an attempt to curb Meloni's dominance over the rightist bloc, but polls suggest she has continued to advance at her allies' expense.

"Forza Italia is slipping, I have it on 6-7%," pollster Antonio Noto said on Friday, the last day before a blackout on publishing new opinion polls kicked in ahead of the vote.

Forza Italia's support is now concentrated in Italy's under-developed south among low or middle-earners with strong personal allegiance to the leader rather than the party, said Noto.

"Berlusconi's voters are people who have stuck with him over the years, people who still believe his promises, he doesn't get any new voters," he added.


Berlusconi has largely limited his media appearances ahead of the election to pre-recorded speeches and unchallenging interviews with the three national television channels he owns, yet these precautions are still not enough to avoid slip-ups.

In recent campaigning he has said he was the last Italian premier who actually ran for the job "in 208" (instead of 2008), and has promised to "abolish" the tax wedge, which would require completely scrapping income tax and welfare contributions.

This month he joined a rush of Italian politicians taking to TikTok to court younger voters, kicking off his short video with a typically cheery "hi guys, here I am", and admitting he was "a little envious" that most of his viewers would be under 30.

He later said the video had "beaten all previous world records" in terms of the number of viewers.

He has also used his huge financial resources to plaster railway and underground stations with youthful-looking photos of himself alongside the slogan "now more than ever, pick a side".

Despite Berlusconi's inevitable decline in power and popularity, politics professor Orsina said his achievements over almost 30 years still made him "a giant" compared with his rivals.

"For better or worse, in future history books about Europe Berlusconi will get four or five pages. Most of the others running in this election will hardly get a mention," he said.

($1 = 1.0090 euros)

Ageing 'giant' Berlusconi seeks lead role at Italy's election

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email