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Italian billionaire Berlusconi 'wins' election

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Berlusconi set to become next Italian PM after rival concedes victory
  • Ex-Rome mayor Walter Veltroni of center-left party congratulated tycoon
  • Victory will mark Berlusconi's third term of office
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ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Billionaire conservative former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is on track to become Italy's next leader after his center-left rival Walter Veltroni Monday conceded general election defeat.

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The antics of charismatic billionaire Silvio Berlusconi have endeared him to Italian voters in the past.

Incomplete election results show Berlusconi, 71, with a commanding lead in both houses of parliament.

Veltroni, who recently stepped down as mayor of Rome, delivered a concession speech live Monday night on Italian television.

Berlusconi, a charismatic center-right billionaire who served two terms as prime minister, and Veltroni were the two main contenders among 32 candidates vying to replace Romano Prodi, who stepped down as prime minister in January.

The new prime minister will lead Italy's 63rd government since the end of World War II. Arcane electoral laws giving many small parties in parliament a disproportionate amount of power are blamed in part for the frequent collapses of the nation's governments.

Berlusconi of the People of Freedom Party, was prime minister from May 1994 to January 1995 and again from April 2005 to May 2006. He then narrowly lost a re-election bid to Prodi.

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While Berlusconi is nearly 20 years older than the 52-year-old Veltroni, the media magnate's plastic surgery, hair transplant, and year-round tan have turned him into the eternal youngster of Italian politics. His bypass surgery since leaving office seemed to have little to no impact on the election.

Berlusconi ran his campaign with his trademark bravado, arguing he is the only one who could give Italy the future it needs. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Hada Messia in Rome contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

All About Silvio BerlusconiWalter VeltroniRomano ProdiItalyParliament of Italy

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