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Italy's Berlusconi Discovers Social Media As A Campaign Tool

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 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.
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