Bunga bunga charges
Meanwhile, Berlusconi faced a serious personal challenge with charges of sex with an underage nightclub dancer and abuse of power.
Berlusconi had sex 13 times with underage dancer Karima el Mahroug, nicknamed "Ruby the heart-stealer," say prosecutors who allege the prime minister abused his position when he intervened in May 2010 to get her released from the jail where she was being held on charges of theft. El Mahroug has said she never had sex with Berlusconi and that she lied to him about her age, telling him she was 24.
In September 2011, prosecutors submitted transcripts of approximately 100,000 pages of wiretaps -- from 2008 and 2009 -- to a court in Bari. The prosecutors have accused eight people of paying young women to attend so-called "bunga bunga" parties at Berlusconi's home.
Berlusconi denied the charges and accused prosecutors of conspiring against him in a left-wing plot. "Communism never changes in Italy. There are still people who use the penal code as a weapon in their ideological battles," he said earlier this year.
But, according to the transcripts of the calls, Berlusconi made several controversial remarks, vowing at one point to leave Italy, which he described as a "s****y country" that "sickened" him. When confronted with these remarks, Berlusconi laughed off this and other gaffes.