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Europe’s Unending Berlusconi Problem

LONDON – Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s three-time prime minister and the country’s dominant politician for two decades, has now been convicted and sentenced to four years in prison – a sentence since reduced to one year.  But few people in Italy – or in Europe – believe that Berlusconi will fade from Italian, or European, politics anytime soon. Just a few days ago, he declared his intention to remain involved in politics, though not to run for prime minister a fourth time.

Whatever role Berlusconi chooses to play, it is unlikely to be a marginal one. He may not wish to be king again, but he certainly can be a kingmaker, owing to his control of Mediaset, Italy’s largest media group. And, given his abysmal popularity ratings, he may decide to play the wild card, embrace a euro-skeptic and anti-government stance, and try to bring down Prime Minister Mario Monti’s technocratic administration.