Media Mogul Silvio Berlusconi Steps Down as Italy's Prime Minister

 Jacob Raule/Getty Images

The Silvio Berlusconi era in Italian politics is coming to an end, with the media kingpin-turned-prime minister resigning his post Saturday after an eventful week that gave the mogul little choice but to give up power.  

The move comes after the Mediaset television honcho suffered a biting rebuke earlier in the week by a coalition of Italian legislators that had previously supported the prime minister.

The resignation was met with what the New York Times called “cheering crowds” in Rome. “This is the most dramatic moment of our recent history,” Ferruccio de Bortoli, the editor of the Milan daily newspaper Corriere della Sera, told the NYT on Saturday.

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As THR previously reported, Berlusconi had been defiant leading up to the vote, using the three Mediaset networks he controls and the three state-owned RAI networks to vow he would hold onto power and blasting his critics as “criminal” and “unpatriotic.”

But the media pundits predicted that Berlusconi would be forced to step down after the final votes were tallied.

The move likely means the end a political career in which Berlusconi has led Italy for 11 of the last 17 years, all the while controlling the country’s largest media empire. His reign over Mediaset -- and indirect control of RAI as prime minister -- has been a key tool in his grip on power, using it to mold public opinion and silence opposition.

But it also has sparked complaints about a conflict of interest and led to lawsuits featuring allegations that he evaded paying taxes by using a kickback scheme on a movie rights deal, and that he paid a British lawyer to lie for him in court in an older case tied to Mediaset’s film subsidiary Medusa.

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