Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi rebounds again to run for EU parliament

Former PM Silvio Berlusconi had been barred from running for public office for nearly five years due to a tax fraud conviction.

 Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi plays with a dog during the television talk show 'Porta a Porta' (Door to Door) in Rome, Italy June 21, 2017. REUTERS
 Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi plays with a dog during the television talk show 'Porta a Porta' (Door to Door) in Rome, Italy June 21, 2017. REUTERS

Silvio Berlusconi – the 82-year old three-time Italian premier who survived political scandals, heart trouble and legal woes – is back on stage to announce his candidacy in the European Parliament in May elections.

Despite having been legally barred from running for public office for nearly five years due to a tax fraud conviction, a court last year reversed the decision citing good conduct.

The media mogul lost no time before announcing his return to the political arena and said he wanted to "bring my voice to a Europe that should change, a Europe that has lost profound thinking about the world."

Mr Berlusconi's party, Forza Italia (Go Italy), dominated Italian politics for a quarter-century before suffering a crushing defeat in the last elections in May 2018 at the hands of western Europe's first populist collation.

Mr Berlusconi’s announcement came as Italy's government unveiled details of how it intends to fulfil its campaign promises of providing a basic income to needy Italians and reforming the unpopular pension regulations.

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Mr Berlusconi said in his first campaign remarks that he aimed to form a united centre-right in Europe. The League has historically been a junior partner in Mr Berlusconi’s government and the former MP clearly cultivates hopes that the far-right party would ditch its current ally and come back into its fold.

"A centre-right that is united and victorious, with its values and ideals, is the future of Italy, Europe and the world," Berlusconi said in Sardinia, where he keeps a huge estate.

Mr Berlusconi was found guilty of committing tax fraud as part of his vast business dealings in 2012, after which he became ineligible to hold or run for public office for six years and had to relinquish his Senate seat.

Despite suffering a blow to his reputation following the trials involving his infamous "bunga bunga" parties, he continued to lead Forza Italia even as heart problems slowed him down.

Mr Berlusconi framed his advanced age as a benefit of an elder statesman merely seeking to defend European values as he kicked off his European Parliament campaign.

"At the beautiful age I have, I've decided out of a sense of responsibility to go to Europe where profound thinking about the future of the world is missing," he said. "I'll be there, and I pray that God gives me the strength to convince others."

Updated: January 18, 2019 06:00 PM

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