Scandal-ridden Berlusconi coming back for Italy's elections
Italy's former center-right prime minister is eyeing a fourth term.
Italy's former premier, Silvio Berlusconi, said Wednesday that he hoped to return to Italy's parliament in September's elections, almost 10 years after his expulsion from political life for tax fraud conviction.
"I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy," said the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul, speaking to Rai radio.
Last month, Berlusconi had a role in bringing down Prime Minister Mario Draghi by withdrawing his support, thus paving the way for his center-right Forza Italia party to return to power in September 25 elections. This comes as part of a right-wing coalition, led by Giorgia Meloni's fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini's anti-immigration League.
The politician, whose past is infested with scandals, brushed off worries that Meloni may possibly become the next prime minister. An agreement between them stipulates that whoever gets the most votes choose the prime minister. Based on this, he said: "If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task."
Nonetheless, he urged voters to support his party as a 'moderate' voice in the coalition, pointing to the party's European, Atlanticist positioning.
"Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition," he said in an interview that was published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.
From the 1990s to the 2000s, Berlusconi was Italy's prime minister for three terms. He was expelled in November 2013 after being convicted of tax fraud, and banned from participating in general elections for six years. He was then elected in 2019 to the European Parliament, and now he is eyeing the Italian presidency.
Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy, which has neo-fascist roots, topped opinion surveys last month at between 23 and 25% but needs the support of allies Forza Italia, the center-right party led by former premier Silvio Berlusconi, and Matteo Salvini's anti-immigration League to form a government.
Media reports are suggesting that Berlusconi, whose Forza Italia is polling between 7% and 10%, is concerned that naming Meloni as premier now would alienate voters concerned by her radical ideas.
Forza Italia has struggled with a wave of defections in July since it pulled out of Draghi's government, with nine lawmakers, including three ministers, quitting.
The League and the populist Five Star Movement also took back their support for Draghi's coalition, which was due to last one more year until the 2023 scheduled elections.
Brothers of Italy was the only main party not to join Draghi's government when he was parachuted to lead the eurozone's third largest economy in February 2021.
On the other side of the political spectrum, the center-left Democratic Party is polling close to the Brothers of Italy but would have to fight to win influence with the absence of alliances with other parties.
The uncertainty comes as Italy applies far-reaching reforms in return for billions of euros in EU post-pandemic recovery funds, against a backdrop of soaring inflation and concerns about energy supply due to the war in Ukraine. S&P Global Ratings revised last month Italy's outlook to stable from positive.