This may be—finally—the twilight of Silvio Berlusconi’s political life. But as Italians await news of whether the three-time prime minister will be banned from public office, having been charged with tax evasion and paying an underage prostitute, memorably named Ruby the Heart Stealer, another Berlusconi is waiting in the wings. Marina Berlusconi, his eldest child and the most powerful woman in Italy, is the heir apparent of his media empire, and she may be his political scion as well. At 46, she has already proven herself to be a shrewd businesswoman, steadily steering her father’s holding company, Fininvest, and his publishing empire, Mondadori, through the economic crisis. She has her father’s charm—and his persistence. She married a ballet dancer whom she spotted on stage at La Scala, using her influence to obtain a backstage pass to meet him in person. They have two children.
One difference between father and daughter is that the younger Berlusconi is more demure. When asked about her political intentions, her answer so far has been a coy, “We’ll see.”
That, of course, has not stopped the cheerleaders from cheering. “Her manner and determination have convinced everyone that she is the true heir of Silvio Berlusconi,” Luigi Bisignani, a close friend of the Berlusconi family, told an Italian radio station in early July. “There have been political dynasties in other great democracies, for example the United States, with the Bush family and the Kennedys. Why not Italy?”
Indeed, why not? Whether the 76-year-old Silvio Berlusconi is pushed out by the judiciary or retires on his own terms, his petite and impeccably coiffed daughter provides an elegant dynastic solution to the question of who should lead his financially strong—and still politically influential—center-right party after he leaves. (Forbes pegs Marina as the 33rd-most influential woman in the world.)
Berlusconi has certainly hinted that rejuvenation is on his mind. Recently, he announced his political party would be reborn. Now known as the People of Freedom, the party would revert to its original designation—Forza Italia—bringing back memories of Berlusconi’s younger days and his entry into politics more than 20 years ago. Announcing the metamorphosis on his Facebook page, Berlusconi said he was motivated by a desire to “focus on the young” and to, as he put it, “engage them in a common destiny.”
Will Marina be destiny’s child? Some have no doubt. When asked who could possibly be a worthy Silvio successor, the politician and Berlusconi loyalist Daniela Santanchè replied: “It is Marina Berlusconi’s turn to serve her father’s political party—and this country.”