Impossible mission? Berlusconi launches bid for Italian presidency

  • Parliament to choose new president in early 2022
  • Berlusconi’s controversial past could be an obstacle
  • The choice of the president is considered important for the future of the government

ROME, December 9 (Reuters) – Undeterred by health problems, sex scandals and advanced age, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi stubbornly pursues a promise he once made to his mother: that he would one day become president.

Parliament will choose a new head of state early next year and the 85-year-old is the first to run for a race that could transform Italy’s political landscape but has no official candidates.

Substantial obstacles stand in his way, but he comes to the fore with the enthusiasm that has helped him win three parliamentary elections and become Italy’s longest-serving post-war prime minister.

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“I have met him twice in the past two weeks and he was totally excited,” said a member of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, who asked not to be named.

The billionaire media mogul is a very controversial figure, however.

He was temporarily expelled from the civil service after a conviction for tax evasion in 2013 and is still on trial in the latest in a series of witness corruption cases in a minor prostitution case linked to his famous sex parties “Bunga Bunga “from over a decade ago.

Analysts believe such a divisive figure will struggle to muster the broad support needed to elect a president, who solves problems in Italian politics and is regularly called upon, as incumbent President Sergio Mattarella has been, to resolve issues. government dead ends.

The cross-party consensus is particularly important at the moment, as almost all of the major parties have put their differences aside to join Mario Draghi’s coalition of national unity, created to help Italy weather the coronavirus crisis. .

“I CAN BE USEFUL”

Enrico Letta, leader of the center-left Democratic Party (PD), has already ruled out his support for Berlusconi.

He said the president’s election “must be based on a large majority … otherwise the government will immediately collapse.”

Despite political obstacles, Berlusconi continued his unofficial campaign, presenting himself as an experienced statesman in European politics.

Candidates for the presidency generally do not declare themselves before parliamentary elections. However, Berlusconi’s name has been prominently featured in the media, and he has not tried to quell speculation that he wants the job.

Asked about his presidential prospects at a conference in October, he said: “I think Silvio Berlusconi can be of use to the country … I will not back down and I will do what my country needs”.

In November, he sent an anthology of his speeches and political priorities to nearly all of the nearly 1,000 parliamentarians who will elect the president, committing to a list of liberal values ​​in an attempt to broaden his appeal.

In a sharp turnaround, he also praised the flagship citizen income protection program of his major political enemy, the Five Star Movement, which he previously compared to the Communist Party.

A winning candidate needs two-thirds of the vote, but if no one achieves that goal in the first three rounds, the bar is lowered to 50% plus one.

If all the lawmakers in the center-right bloc voted for him, and that’s a big ‘if’, Berlusconi would still need at least 50 more votes to appoint him head of state – which he should get a pool of 113 unaffiliated legislators.

With the calculations looking difficult, some analysts believe Berlusconi is simply hoping to gain leverage to put himself in a position to act as kingmaker.

As Lorenzo De Sio, director of the Italian center for electoral studies at LUISS University in Rome, said, “he has no negotiating power if he is not himself considered plausible”.

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Editing by Kevin Liffey

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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