2009: Public scandal and crisis
This year marked a low point for Berlusconi. His wife, Veronica Lario, announced that she would be filing for divorce and declared that the Italian prime minister "consorts with minors" after he attended the 18th birthday party of underwear model Noemi Letizia. Testimonials and photos fueled further allegations that Berlusconi invited young girls and prostitutes to his raucous parties and compensated them with cash, gifts, and even government positions. Two corruption cases reopened against Berlusconi when Italy's Constitutional Court overturned his immunity from prosecution while in office, prompting the prime minister to complain that he was the most persecuted person "in the entire history of the world." To literally add insult to injury, Berlusconi was hit in the face at a rally in Milan by a man wielding a model of the city's cathedral, and was confronted with mass rallies in Rome demanding his resignation.
As 2009 drew to a close, the Economist observed that Berlusconi was besieged from all sides and had reached a "crisis point." But, the magazine concluded, "he has a joker up his sleeve."
Above, Berlusconi appears on the television program Porta a Porta in May 2009 to discuss his wife's decision to file for divorce.
Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images