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Italy’s ‘immortal’ Berlusconi returns to parliament yet again, seeking fatherly role

85-year-old former prime minister, kicked out of politics for tax fraud, makes his way back with the help of TikTok as far-right government set to take power

Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the center-right party Forza Italia shows a ballot before casting his vote at a polling station in Milan, Italy, September 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the center-right party Forza Italia shows a ballot before casting his vote at a polling station in Milan, Italy, September 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Silvio Berlusconi has done it again — the 85-year-old former prime minister is returning to parliament after winning a seat in Italy’s Senate, nine years after he was kicked out for fraud.

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

And the media mogul Berlusconi himself, dubbed “the immortal” for his longevity in politics, scored a seat in the city of Monza, where he owns a soccer club.

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

It was the heaviest blow of his political career and he declared a “day of mourning for democracy.”

The three-time former premier was ordered to serve community service and was banned for several years from holding elected office.

From left, The League’s Matteo Salvini, Forza Italia’s Silvio Berlusconi, and Brothers of Italy’s Giorgia Meloni attend a final pre-election rally of the center-right coalition in central Rome, Sept. 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File)

That ban expired in 2018 but it would take him a while to recover his shine. His bid to become Italy’s president failed in January.

But at this, his ninth general election — and perhaps his last — Berlusconi bounced back.

He campaigned largely on social media, clocking up over 600,000 followers on TikTok in just a month, and wooing the youth vote with 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.

@silvio.berlusconi

Ciao ragazzi, eccomi qua. Vi do il benvenuto sul mio canale ufficiale #Tiktok per parlare dei temi che più stanno a cuore a Forza Italia e al sottoscritto e che vi riguardano da vicino: parleremo e discuteremo del vostro #futuro Vi racconterò di come vogliamo rendere l’#Italia un Paese che possa darvi nuove opportunità e la possibilità di realizzare i vostri sogni. Ci rivediamo presto su TikTok ! #silvioberlusconi #berlusconi #elezioni #forzaitalia????????????❤️ #politica #giovani

♬ suono originale – Silvio Berlusconi

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.

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 part of an ongoing criminal trial, in which he is accused of paying starlets to keep quiet about his allegedly erotic dinner parties.

The conservative European People’s Party (EPP), the biggest group in the European Parliament, tweeted its congratulations to Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, which secured about eight percent of the 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 & stable Europe,” it said.

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