Italy's Berlusconi Discovers Social Media As A Campaign Tool

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Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi finished serving a tax fraud conviction in March. (AP)
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi finished serving a tax fraud conviction in March. (AP)

Italy holds regional elections Sunday, and one politician trying to make a comeback is the scandal-plagued former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.

Taking his cue from Italy's digitally savvy young Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Berlusconi has opened an Instagram account, posting more than 60 photos on the first day alone.

We see the 78-year-old media tycoon holding trophies of his soccer team, A.C. Milan; addressing rallies; and posing with his 29-year-old girlfriend, Francesca Pascale — as well as hugging his white poodle Dudu.

The man, who while in office often boasted of his face-lifts and hair transplants, still wears pancake makeup and has a hair color and texture that do not exist in nature. The politician, who hosted "bunga bunga" sex parties with starlets, can be seen watching the Eurovision song contest on TV.

Sunday's vote will be the first big test of Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia Party since he finished serving a tax fraud conviction in March.

His passion, however, for the hustings seems long gone.

"The court banned me from running for office for six years, and given my age, all I can do is campaign for other candidates and promote our great crusade," Berlusconi says.

His party broke off its agreement to back Prime Minister Renzi's constitutional reform program, and now, Berlusconi is campaigning like an outsider.

His party is polling at less than 12 percent, one-third of Renzi's center-left Democratic Party.

Barring last-minute surprises — perhaps thanks to Instagram — Italy could be witnessing the twilight of Berlusconi's political career.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Well, the publication who introduced us to bunga bunga sex parties is back on the campaign trail. Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is not a candidate himself, but his party is competing in regional elections this Sunday. And NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports that he has learned some new tricks.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Taking his cue from Italy's digitally savvy, young Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Berlusconi has opened an Instagram account, posting more than 60 photos on the first day alone. We see Berlusconi posing with trophies of his soccer team, A.C. Milan, addressing rallies and selfies of the 78-year-old media tycoon with his 29-year-old girlfriend, Francesca Pascale, as well as Berlusconi hugging his white poodle, Dudu.

The man, who while in office often boasted of his facelifts and hair transplants, still wears pancake makeup and has a hair color and texture that do not exist in nature. The politician who hosted bunga bunga sex parties with starlets can be seen at rest watching the Eurovision song contest on TV. Sundays vote will be the first big test of Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia Party since the former prime minister finished serving a tax fraud conviction in March. But his passion for the hustings seems long gone.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI: (Through interpreter) The court banned me from running for office for six years. And given my age, all I can do is campaign for other candidates and promote our great crusade.

POGGIOLI: Berlusconi's party broke off its agreement to back Prime Minister Renzi's constitutional reform program, and now Berlusconi is campaigning like an outsider. His party is pulling at less than 12 percent - only a third of Renzi's center-left Democratic Party. Barring last minute surprises, perhaps thanks to Instagram, Italy could be witnessing the twilight of Berlusconi's political career. Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.