Berlusconi (85) tipped for final tilt at Italy’s top job

All political lives end in failure unless, apparently, you are Silvio Berlusconi.

taly’s presidential elections next month are likely to be the last chance for the octogenarian billionaire and his supporters are hoping he will cap off his extraordinary, scandal-plagued career with the ultimate accolade of seeing him in the country’s top post.

“It would be a dream,” said Antonio Tajani, the deputy leader of Mr Berlusconi’s conservative Forza Italia party. “A lot of us have asked him (to run). When you bring up the subject with him, he just smiles.”

Mr Berlusconi, (85), holds the record as Italy’s longest-serving post-war prime minister. He has been in office three times, and before politics he made billions in real estate and television broadcasting, and turned AC Milan into the world’s most successful football club. He now presents himself as the elder statesman within Italy’s right-wing bloc, dominated by firebrand populists such as Matteo Salvini and Giorgia Meloni.

In 2016, Mr Berlusconi underwent open-heart surgery and last year he was hospitalised with Covid. Appearing at a conference in Brussels in October, he looked on good form, but his hearing seemed impaired as he struggled with questions during a press conference.

But Mr Berlusconi, the man who once called the former US president Barack Obama “suntanned”, accused Germans of Holocaust denial, and claimed Chinese Communists used to boil babies, is also a byword for scandal, gaffes, and run-ins with the law.

Two trials on suspicion of bribery are still pending.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]

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