Soon-to-be former Italian prime minister, media tycoon and singer Silvio Berlusconi has vowed not to go quietly, promising to be a thorn in the side of his center-left nemesis Romano Prodi while in opposition.
Berlusconi will channel his powers into making life difficult for the new government
Italy's Supreme Court on Wednesday sealed Prodi's victory in the lower house of parliament, with confirmation of a two-seat majority in the upper house Senate expected soon.
Berlusconi, Italy's richest man, had already made it clear ahead of the court decision that he would lead the parliamentary opposition to Prodi's disparate coalition in the event of defeat.
The 69-year-old billionaire has given the impression he is counting the days when he can scramble back into power, given Prodi's wafer-thin majority in the Senate and what many observers believe to be an ungovernable coalition stretching from moderate Catholics to Communists.
Berlusconi has maintained an uncharacteristically low profile since Prodi brushed aside his offer of a power-sharing agreement at the weekend, given that almost 50 percent of voters in last week's election voted for his center-right coalition.
But that will be the calm before the storm, if the rider to Berlusconi's offer is anything to go by.
Romano Prodi should celebrate while he can
He accused Prodi of taking an "extremist line" and acting "irresponsibly" in declaring victory. If Prodi continues, "then it's obvious that Forza Italia (Berlusconi's party) and its allies will wage an unswerving battle in defense of the values and interests of 50 percent of voters," Berlusconi said.
"Common sense shows that we need a moment of reflection in the interests of all. If there isn't this moment of reflection, we will be in parliament to be an opposition which will certainly be very rigorous."
Italy's great performer unwilling to leave the stage
Berlusconi, as befits a man who once made a living as a nightclub singer, has shown a true entertainer's reluctance to leave the political stage.
His vast wealth and ownership of Italy's largest private TV network, a publishing conglomerate, insurance companies and department store -- combined with a once-comfortable parliamentary majority -- have assured his dominance over Italian public life for the past five years.
Ever the showman, he compared himself variously with Napoleon and Jesus Christ during the election campaign. His virulent anti-communism got him into hot water when he upset China by saying communists there had historically "boiled babies".
Forbes magazine's annual list of the world's richest men puts him at Number 25, with a personal fortune estimated at 9.9 billion euros ($12 billion).
Court cases and investigations may hinder a comeback
Berlusconi has been dogged by controversy
He may need some of that stash to defend himself in his latest brush with courts, after charges of corruption and conflict of interest that have dogged him since he came to power in 2001.
Last month, prosecutors asked a judge to indict the prime minister for allegedly bribing a British lawyer to give favorable testimony in previous corruption trials.
The prime minister has fought a long list of legal charges including tax fraud, embezzlement, false accounting and bribing a judge.
Blaming politically motivated persecution by "red judges", he has faced trial in several cases, avoiding conviction one way or another -- sometimes by straightforward acquittal, but often through the expiry of the statute of limitations, thanks to the slow turning of the wheels of justice.
Born on September 29, 1936, to a middle-class Milan family, Berlusconi honed his business acumen at an early stage, selling vacuum cleaners and working as a cruise ship crooner in the 1950s.
But it wasn't until a decade later that, having graduated as a lawyer, that he began building a vast fortune with a series of property developments in Milan.
Entrepreneurial approach to politics got initial results
As ruthless in politics as in business
He tackled politics with the same business-like zeal, founding his Forza Italia party in 1993 and becoming prime minister the following year. "The link between my experience as an entrepreneur and that of a politician is all in one word: freedom," he said.
His first government collapsed after just seven months when it lost the support of a right-wing ally. Further failure followed when he lost the 1996 election to Prodi.
Undeterred, he bounced back with a sweeping election victory in 2001.
Faced with an even more disparate centre-left coalition this time around, who would bet against a comeback by this perennial survivor?