Timeline: Silvio Berlusconi's political fall

Fri Nov 30, 2012 8:24am EST

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(Reuters) - Here is a look at the rise and fall of Italian billionaire and former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

January 1994 - Berlusconi storms into politics to fill a vacuum created after the "Bribesville" graft scandal destroyed the old Christian Democrat party. He wins a general election three months later and becomes prime minister. His government lasts only until December.

May 2001 - Berlusconi wins second election victory, taking office in June with Italy's biggest post-war parliamentary majority.

April 2005 - Berlusconi resigns after two coalition partners demand a change of direction following a defeat for center-right parties in regional elections. He forms a new government two weeks later.

April 2008 - Berlusconi wins big majority in both houses of parliament after winning elections.

October 2011 - Media reports say Karima El Mahroug, a 17-year old Moroccan nightclub dancer known by the stage name of Ruby Heartstealer, had told investigators she attended "bunga bunga" sex parties with other young women at Berlusconi's villa near Milan. Paying for sex with a minor is a crime in Italy. Both Berlusconi and El Mahroug deny they had sex.

November 2011 - Under heavy pressure from President Giorgio Napolitano, Berlusconi resigns after a collapse in market confidence which pushes Italy's borrowing levels to critical levels. Berlusconi is replaced by respected former European Commissioner Mario Monti who forms a technocrat government.

September 2012 - After months in the shadows, Berlusconi returns to the political frontline, attacking the Monti government and vowing to abolish a key tax.

October 9 - Berlusconi suggests Monti could stay on as head of a new center-right government after elections. Two weeks later he says he will not lead his People of Freedom (PDL) party in elections expected in 2013.

October 26 - Berlusconi is sentenced to four years in jail for tax fraud in connection with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company. He will not go to jail until all appeals are exhausted. The next day he threatens to overthrow the Monti government.

November 26 - Berlusconi says he will wait for the result of a poll on December 2 to choose the center-left candidate before deciding whether to run in elections expected in March. Party members say he is considering launching a new party.

(Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

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