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