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Silvio Berlusconi in court in Milan in 2003
Italy

Berlusconi Lessons Two Months Into The Trump Era

What Silvio Berlusconi's 20-year hold on Italy tells those looking to bring down (as fast as possible) the marketing man occupying the White House.

WASHINGTON — On February 1992 Italian prosecutor Antonio Di Pietro arrested Mario Chiesa, a member of the Italian Socialist Party, for accepting a bribe from a Milan cleaning firm. Chiesa had been hoping to run for mayor of Milan, but was caught receiving an envelope filled with 7 million liras ($7,000), an installment of the agreed payment between the cleaning company and the Socialist party run by then-leader Bettino Craxi. Before he was arrested, Chiesa had tried to flush the cash down the toilet. But there were too many banknotes — and he couldn't flush them all down in time.

It was the beginning of Tangentopoli, (Bribesville) the biggest corruption scandal in post-War Italy. It ended with half of parliament being investigated and the collapse of their two major political parties, the Christian Democrats and the PSI of Chiesa and Craxi. As judges were replacing politicians and calling the shots, a political vacuum was created, soon to be filled by Silvio Berlusconi. The real estate and media tycoon, who was closely linked to Craxi, needed to protect his livelihood. Practically overnight, Berlusconi used his advertising company to create a personalized political party Forza Italia. He needed to get into the prime minister's office to cover up his dubious businesses — and Italians let him do it. Berlusconi seized power with the populism and demagoguery similar to what we are witnessing today with Donald Trump.

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