‘Immortal’ Berlusconi says he will run for European Parliament

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'Immortal' Berlusconi says he will run for European Parliament
Berlusconi is making yet another comeback. Photo: ELIANO IMPERATO / AFP

Italy's scandal-plagued former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi announced today that he will run in May's European Parliament election, in yet another comeback bid for the 82-year-old billionaire.

Berlusconi, who lost out in Italy's elections last year to a far-right and populist coalition, said he wanted to inject some “deep thinking” into Europe as he announced his candidacy for the bloc's polls. 

The media magnate will be a high-profile candidate to become a member of the European Parliament in the election, in which traditional parties are expected to face major challenges from far-right and eurosceptic populists.

“At my grand age, I have decided out of a sense of responsibility to head for Europe, where there is a lack of deep thinking about the future of the world,” he said at a meeting of his centre-right Forza Italia (Go Italy) party in Sardinia.

Dubbed “the immortal”, Berlusconi dominated Italian politics for more than two decades and managed to return to prominence after a long series of sex scandals, serial gaffes and legal woes.

Despite being immersed in sleaze and forced out of parliament in 2013 after a tax fraud conviction, Berlusconi made an astonishing return to lead Forza Italia into last year's general election.

But his party was outrun in the March vote by its junior ally, Matteo Salvini's far-right League, which won 17 percent compared to Forza Italia's 14 percent.

Salvini then broke the League's alliance with Berlusconi's party to form a coalition government with the Five Star Movement, becoming interior minister and deputy prime minister in the process.

Polls show the move paid off, as the League's popularity has since shot to 30 percent, while Forza Italia languishes below 10 percent.

But that has not deterred Berlusconi, who had open heart surgery in 2017 and will go on trial this year for allegedly paying a witness to give false testimony about his notorious bunga-bunga parties.

“With my knowledge, my experience and my ability to persuade, I think I can play an important role and make European citizens understand that we risk moving away from Western values,” he said on Thursday.

The onetime cruise ship singer, who has served as prime minister three times and once owned the AC Milan football club, clinched his first election victory in 1994. 

He was last ousted from power in November 2011 following a parliamentary revolt against his increasingly scandal-tainted rule and a wave of panic on the financial markets that pushed Italy to the brink of default.


billionaire – miliardario

last year – l'anno scorso

expected – previsto

to return  – ritornare

tax fraud – frode fiscale

alliance – alleanza

surgery – chirurgia

knowledge  – la sapienza

cruise ship – nave da crociera

victory – vittoria


Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.

“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.