Silvio Berlusconi, former Italian prime minister dies at 86

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who surmounted scandals to hold office four times, has died at the age of 86. He passed away at Milan's San Raffaele hospital. In April, he was treated for a leukemia-related pulmonary infection. 

The Italian defense minister stated that Berlusconi's demise leaves a "huge void" and that a national day of mourning will be observed on Wednesday. As Italy's longest-serving prime minister after World War II, he had overcome sex controversies and corruption allegations.

In September of last year, Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia party formed a coalition with Giorgia Meloni's right-wing government. Ms. Meloni remembered her predecessor as a "fighter" in response to the news. She stated in a video message that he remained "one of the most influential men in Italy's history."

Her deputy, Matteo Salvini, expressed his grief and thanked Berlusconi for his "friendship", "advice", and "generosity". Minister of Defense Guido Crosetto stated, "An era has ended... Farewell, Silvio." His death has left a "huge void," Mr. Crosetto tweeted.

Wednesday, the date of Berlusconi's funeral at Milan Cathedral, has been designated by the Italian government as a national day of bereavement. A spokesman told the media that all Italian and European flags on public buildings will be lowered to half-staff beginning on Monday.

Vladimir Putin also paid tribute, describing Berlusconi as a "true friend." The Russian President stated in a statement that he has always admired Berlusconi's "wisdom" and "ability to make balanced, far-sighted decisions." Karine Jean-Pierre, a spokesperson for the White House in the United States, stated that Italy was a key US ally and that Berlusconi had "worked closely with several US administrations to advance our bilateral relationship."

In April, physicians at San Raffaele revealed that Berlusconi had chronic myelomonocyte leukemia, a rare form of blood cancer.After contracting Covid in 2020, he had repeated health issues. There has been no official confirmation of the cause of death to date.

Born in Milan in 1936, Berlusconi began his professional life selling vacuum cleaners before establishing a construction company. He eventually became one of Italy's wealthiest individuals, constructing a business empire that included television networks, publishing companies, and advertising agencies.

In addition, he garnered international recognition as the owner of the legendary soccer team AC Milan, which he saved from bankruptcy in 1986, before entering politics in the 1990s. Carlo Ancelotti, the current manager of Real Madrid, recalled Berlusconi as a "loyal, intelligent, and sincere man" Mr. Ancelotti, who twice won the Champions League with AC Milan under Berlusconi's stewardship, stated that the former prime minister had played a crucial role in his development as a football star before becoming a coach.

Berlusconi was a divisive political figure. His supporters lauded his business acumen and populist zeal, while his defiance of the rule of law earned him the contempt of his detractors. Throughout his political career, he encountered a series of legal issues, including accusations of bribery, tax evasion, and having sexual relations with a minor prostitute. Multiple times, he was convicted, but he averted jail time due to his age and the expiration of statutes of limitations.