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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

What role will Berlusconi play in Italy’s new government?

Nine years after being convicted of tax fraud, 'immortal' Silvio Berlusconi is set to return to the Senate and seeks a ‘director’ role in the new Italian government.

Leader of Italian right-wing party
Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi will return to the Italian Senate nine years after being forced out of it for a tax fraud conviction. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

Silvio Berlusconi has done it again – the 85-year-old former prime minister returns to parliament after winning a seat in Italy’s Senate. He does so nine years after being forced out of Palazzo Madama for tax fraud.

Berlusconi’s Forza Italia was celebrating on Monday after a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni and her post-fascist Brothers of Italy party triumphed at the ballot boxes.

READ ALSO: Italian elections LIVE: Far right set for clear win as Italy awaits official results

The media mogul, who has been recently dubbed “the immortal” for his longevity in politics, scored a seat in Monza, Lombardy, where he owns a Serie A football club.

Leader of Italy's liberal-conservative party Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi and leader of Italy's conservative party Brothers of Italy, Giorgia Meloni acknowledge supporters at the end of a joint rally.

Berlusconi will be one of the key members of the new Italian government together with Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni, currently poised to be the new PM. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

The billionaire was forced out of the upper house of parliament in 2013 after being convicted of corporate tax fraud.

It was a heavy blow for the cavaliere’s political career, one which, in Berlusconi’s words, marked a “day of mourning for democracy”.

The three-time former premier was ordered to serve community service and was banned from holding elected office. That ban expired in 2018 but it would take Berlusconi a while to recover his shine. 

READ ALSO: Meloni, Salvini, Berlusconi: The key figures in Italy’s likely new government

His bid to become Italy’s head of state failed in January. But, at his ninth general election – likely his last – Berlusconi bounced back.

He campaigned largely on social media, snapping up over 600,000 followers on TikTok in just a month, and wooing the youth vote with (slightly awkward) grandad jokes.

In one video, which was watched over one million times, he interrupted himself to brag about killing an enormous fly. In another, he joked about stealing young men’s girlfriends.

Pro-European voice 

Berlusconi, who burst onto the political scene 28 years ago, said he would be a father figure to Meloni, 45, and fellow coalition partner Matteo Salvini, 49.

He also said he would be a pro-European voice in what is expected to be Italy’s most right-wing government since World War II.

“I’m going to try to act as director in the government,” Berlusconi said after casting his vote. 

Silvio Berlusconi (C) surrounded by bodyguards, arrives at his home in downtown Rome on March 11, 2015.

Berlusconi is currently part of a criminal trial, in which he is accused of paying starlets to keep quiet about his erotic dinner parties. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

This is despite a series of health issues, including a fall at the start of the campaign which made it difficult for him to walk.

Berlusconi is also currently part of a criminal trial, in which he is accused of paying starlets to keep quiet about his allegedly erotic dinner parties, known as ‘bunga bunga’.

READ ALSO: Italian prosecutors seek six-year jail term for Berlusconi in ‘Ruby ter’ trial

The conservative European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest group in the European Parliament, tweeted their congratulations to Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which secured about eight percent of Sunday’s vote.

“We are confident that Forza Italia will guide the next government into a path that serves the best interests of the Italian people as part of a strong and stable Europe,” it said.

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POLITICS

Italy’s government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

Italy's new government issued a decree on Thursday to continue sending weapons to Ukraine through 2023, continuing the previous administration's policy of support to Kyiv.

Italy's government to continue sending weapons to Ukraine in 2023

The decree extends to December 31, 2023 an existing authorisation for “the transfer of military means, materials and equipment to the government authorities of Ukraine,” according to a government statement.

Since taking office in October, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly voiced her support for Kyiv while underlying the importance of the Atlantic alliance.

In her first speech to parliament, the leader of the Brothers of Italy party pledged to “continue to be a reliable partner of NATO in supporting Ukraine.”

Her predecessor Mario Draghi was a staunch supporter of Kyiv, but the issue of sending arms to Ukraine split the biggest party in parliament during his coalition government, the Five Star Movement.

That friction led to the early elections that brought Meloni to power.

Parliament now has 60 days to vote the decree into law.

READ ALSO: Outcry in Italy after Berlusconi defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

Despite Meloni’s efforts to reassure her Western allies of Italy’s support for the EU’s and NATO’s Ukraine strategy, including sanctions on Russia, the close ties to Russia of her two coalition partners have come under scrutiny.

Both Matteo Salvini of the League party and former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who leads Forza Italia, have long enjoyed warm relations with Russia.

In October, an audio tape of Berlusconi was leaked to the media in which the former premier described how he had received a birthday present of vodka from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the tape, he also expressed concerns about sending weapons and cash to Kyiv and appeared to blame the war on Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Berlusconi later issued a statement saying his personal position on Ukraine “does not deviate” from that of Italy and the EU.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Salvini, too, has come under fire for his relations with Moscow, including a report that he dined with Russia’s ambassador to Rome just days after that country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Salvini, who has criticised EU sanctions as ineffective, has long admired Putin, even wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the Russian leader’s face.

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