Silvio Berlusconi's rise, bungles and bunga-bunga

A timeline of the Italian politician's controversial career

CBC News Last Updated: Feb. 7, 2014


Silvio BerlusconiMedia baron Silvio Berlusconi stormed into Italian politics in 1994, promising an end to corrupt politics. Since then, the charismatic billionaire has proved an endlessly fascinating and controversial figure.

He's one of Italy's richest men, with an estimated net worth of $6 billion US and an empire with significant assets in broadcasting, publishing, banking and sports (including the world-famous AC Milan football club).

Yet he may be even better known for his flamboyant behaviour, both in and out of political office. He has been ensnared in several sex scandals and criminal investigations in recent years.

Take a look back at Berlusconi's political career. Click on the years below to navigate through the timeline.

The 1990s


Berlusconi founds the centre-right political party Forza Italia. He tells voters his new party will offer an alternative to older political parties tainted by corruption scandals.


The media tycoon is elected prime minister after forming a coalition with the National Alliance and Northern League. After squabbling with his coalition partners and fighting an indictment for tax fraud, Berlusconi's government collapses just eight months later.


Berlusconi loses the election to centre-left rival Romano Prodi, an economics professor.


Berlusconi is convicted of bribing tax inspectors, accounting fraud and of making illegal political donations in three separate trials. He is later acquitted on appeal.



Berlusconi is elected prime minister and forms the country's 59th postwar government.


Berlusconi faces charges of false accounting. He is acquitted.


On the campaign trail again, Berlusconi says "'I am the Jesus Christ of politics. I am a patient victim, I sacrifice myself for everyone.'' He narrowly loses government, again to his rival Prodi.


In January, Berlusconi's wife sends an open letter to a newspaper demanding her husband apologize to her for flirting with other women. The politician issues a statement saying, "Forgive me, I beg you. And take this public show of my private pride giving in to your fury as an act of love. One of many."

Just four months later, Oggi magazine offers a glimpse into "Berlusconi's Harem", showing photos of the politician cavorting with young women at his Sardinia villa. Berlusconi's lawyer said the photos were taken by trespassers.

Later the same year, Berlusconi establishes the centre-right People of Freedom Party which unites Forza Italia and the National Alliance of Gianfranco Fini.


Prodi's government falls in January, offering Berlusconi a fresh opportunity at a third term in power.

He seizes it, claiming majorities in both houses in elections held in April.

A new bill is introduced, protecting the prime minister from prosecution while serving in office. The law will be deemed unconstitutional the following year.


Berlusconi is taken to task for remarks about the victims of the L'Aquila earthquake; he says they should see their emergency lodgings "like a weekend of camping." Still, many Italians are heartened by the prime minister's handling of the crisis.

But scandal continues to swirl as papers publish photos of young women attending parties hosted by Berlusconi. The embattled prime minister's wife later announces she is leaving him. She calls him "the dragon to whom virgins offer themselves for success and notoriety."

Tens of thousands call for Berlusconi's resignation at a December protest in Rome. A week later, a man strikes him in the face with a small model of a cathedral in Milan. The politician suffers two broken teeth, a fractured nose and a bloodied lip.


Berlusconi comes under scrutiny as an investigation probes his "bunga bunga" parties and his ties to a young woman named Karima el-Mahroug, aka "Ruby the Heartbreaker". The media report that the young woman, who was in prison on accusations of theft, was released after Berlusconi called the local authorities.

Berlusconi survives two confidence votes, cautioning Italians that the collapse of the government would lead to great instability.


"Rubygate" continues and prosecutors say they are investigating the prime minister on charges of abuse of office and paying for sex with an underage prostitute. Although Berlusconi refutes the allegations and refuses calls for his resignation, he is later formally charged.

He also faces separate charges of alleged tax fraud, embezzlement and corruption.

Hundreds of thousands of women in February hold rallies across the country, protesting the prime minister's treatment of women while striking workers gather and protest the proposed austerity cuts in September.

Berlusconi's coalition in November survives a vote of confidence in parliament, though there are still calls for his resignation. He tells the country's president he will resign after parliament approves an economic reform plan demanded by the European Union. Mario Monti, an economist appointed by President Giorgio Napolitano, replaces Berlusconi.


Berlusconi is convicted of tax fraud in October and sentenced to four years in prison, which is later commuted to one year under an amnesty.

The now 76-year-old billionaire media mogul receives the stiffest sentence among four co-defendants. They were convicted in a scheme that involved inflating the price his media empire paid for TV rights to U.S. movies and pocketing the difference.

Yet just two months later, he announces plans to make a political comeback, prompting Monti to announce his resignation.

Also in December, Berlusconi also becomes engaged to 28-year-old Francesca Pascale. This will be his third marriage.


An appeals court upholds the tax fraud conviction in April, but Berlusconi makes a last-ditch appeal to Italy's highest court in July. In August, the court upholds the conviction and the one-year jail sentence. The court, however, orders a judicial review of the second part of the sentence, a five-year ban on holding public office.

In a separate case, Berlusconi is convicted in June on the charges of paying for sex with an underage prostitute and then using his influence to try to cover it up. A Milan court sentences him to seven years in prison and bars him from holding public office for life, but his right to launch two appeals of the verdict means that the case will likely drag on for years.

The Senate in November votes to strip Berlusconi of his seat, after the courts found him guilty of tax fraud.


Berlusconi will face a hearing in 2014 for alleged witness corruption in relation to the "Ruby" trial, in which he was found guilty for paying for sex with a minor and abusing his position in office.

Timeline: Silvio Berlusconi -
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Silvio Berlusconi's rise, bungles and bunga-bunga

A timeline of the Italian politician's controversial career

Last Updated: Feb. 7, 2014

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