Donald Trump

In Berlusconi, Lessons for America

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    To get an idea of how Donald Trump, it is worth looking at the political career of Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian businessman turned populist.

  • Facts


    • A rich businessman, Silvio Berlusconi entered politics in 1994 as an anti-Establishment outsider.
    • In the last 22 years, he has won three general elections and served as prime minister for nine years.
    • Like Donald Trump he has been a master self-publicist, with an ability to appeal directly to the Italian people.
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Italy Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi, a Trump template? Source: AP

For the past couple of weeks, the world has been guessing at how U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will behave in office and what policies he will pursue, following a long campaign full of contradictory statements. America’s previous businessman-presidents – Warren G. Harding and Herbert Hoover – were around too long ago to provide much guidance. There is, however, a recent European precedent: Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi.

What Mr. Trump has achieved, Mr. Berlusconi pioneered. Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Berlusconi is a businessman who made his first fortune in real estate. When he entered politics in 1994, he was an outsider, albeit one who, also like Mr. Trump, had long been close to plenty of insiders.

The similarities don’t end there. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Berlusconi are intimately familiar with the insides of courtrooms; Mr. Trump has moved fast since the election to settle fraud lawsuits against Trump University, but has about 70 other suits outstanding against him and his businesses. And both have an array of conflicts of interest with their role as head of government, thanks to their large business empires.

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