Silvio Berlusconi was expelled from Italy’s parliament in 2013, after being convicted of tax fraud. But far from retiring from politics, the media mogul and four-time prime minister is plotting a course back to power by backing a new conservative coalition, which just won in Sicily’s local elections.
But while he is appealing the parliament ban to be overturned, it looks like he won’t need it to cultivate and control Italian politics.
The alliance Berlusconi backs, made up of his Forza Italia party alongside rightwing parties the Northern League and Brothers of Italy, won with 40% of the vote, propelling his candidate, Nello Musumeci, to the Sicilian presidency. They came ahead of the anti-establishment Five Star movement (34.7%), but it wasn’t exactly a resounding victory—less than 50% of Sicilians showed up to vote. Nonetheless, it piles more pressure on the governing leftist Democratic Party, which won just 18.7%.
Berlusconi’s alliance is now expected to be the biggest party in next year’s national elections, according to Reuters, and he is hoping to overturn his ban on running for office, with the European Court of Human Rights due to decide on his case later this year. Even if the appeal fails, the 81-year-old’s active role in the Sicilian campaign and his party’s strong performance in opinion polls suggest he may be the kingmaker of what’s likely to be a coalition government in 2018.