Disgraced Silvio Berlusconi has confirmed he will stand for Italian Prime Minister again
The flamboyant 76-year-old quit as premier in November last year
He faces possible jail time for tax fraud and a trial for having sex with an underage prostitute
He declared he would not allow Italy to spiral into recession
He has hinted for months that he might make a comeback
20:17 GMT, 8 December 2012
Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian Prime Minister, has confirmed that he will stand in next year’s election, a year after being forced to resign amid a sex scandal and a debt crisis.
The flamboyant 76-year-old media tycoon, who faces possible jail time for tax fraud and a trial for having sex with an underage prostitute, declared he would not allow Italy to spiral into recession and said he had been 'besieged by requests' to run.
Berlusconi had hinted for months that he might make a comeback in the election which is due in about three months’ time.
Is running for office: Italy's disgraced former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has confirmed that he will run for leadership again in next year's election
Berlusconi's centre-right People of Liberty Party (PDL) lags Pier Luigi Bersani's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) by at least 16 percentage points in opinion polls, and also trails the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.
While another Berlusconi victory looks almost impossible, the man who has dominated Italy's centre-right for 19 years may hope to help it win enough support to keep the centre-left from winning a clear majority in both houses of parliament.
The question mark that remains over the election is whether the current prime minister will run. So far current Prime Minister Mario Monti has said he will step in only if the election result is unclear, but there has been speculation he could join forces with a centrist group.
But his criticism of Monti's handling of the economy was particularly harsh and came at a critical moment in the run-up to the parliamentary polls.
'The situation today is much worse than
it was a year ago when I left the government out of a sense of
responsibility and a love for my country,' Berlusconi said in a
statement issued after a long meeting with his People of Liberty (PDL)
party leaders earlier in the day.
Loyal: Supporters of fromer Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi hold a banner reading 'Silvio, Italy believes in you' in front of Berlusconi's Roman residence on Thursday
'I cannot let my country fall into a recessive spiral without end. It's not possible to go on like this,' Berlusconi said after explaining that he had been 'besieged by requests from (his) party to announce at the soonest my re-entry into politics to guide the PDL.'
Berlusconi's comeback arrives slightly more than a year after he resigned as prime minister as collapsing market confidence pushed Italy's debt costs to critical levels.
His international reputation had already been left in tatters by lurid stories of ‘bunga bunga’ parties with pole-dancing prostitutes at his home outside Milan. He is currently appealing a four-year jail sentence for tax fraud and faces a trial over paying for sex with an underage nightclub dancer.
Italians will probably vote in March with a recession that began mid-way through last year showing no signs of abating and unemployment at 11.1 percent, a record high.
‘I race to win,’ Berlusconi told reporters at the practice field for AC Milan, the soccer club he controls, after repeating criticism of Monti's handling of the economy over the past year.
Trials and accusations: Mr Berlusconi, now 76, is accused in another trial of paying to have sex with Karima El-Mahroug in 2010 when she was 17
He said: ‘To win, everyone said there had to be a tested leader. It's not that we did not look for one. We did, and how! But there isn't one… I'm doing it out of a sense of responsibility.’
His move may unsettle financial markets, whose loss of faith in Berlusconi's guidance of the economy pushed the country to the edge of a Greek-style debt crisis last year and prompted President Giorgio Napolitano to ask the former European commissioner Monti to step in to restore confidence.
With the support of a right-left coalition including the PDL, Monti imposed austerity measures to bring borrowing costs under control, but Berlusconi said on Wednesday that the economic professor's policies had left Italy facing a ‘recessive spiral without end’.
The PDL withdrew parliamentary
support for Monti on Thursday, raising the spectre of a snap election
and driving up the difference between German and Italian benchmark bonds
by about 30 basis points.
Giorgio Napolitano asked the former European commissioner Monti to form
a government of technocrats with the support of a right-left coalition
that includes the PDL.
imposed austerity measures to bring borrowing costs under control. But
the higher taxes have weighed on consumer spending and deepened a
recession that began in the second half of last year.
Criticised: Berlusconi has argued that current Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti's handling of the economy has been particularly harsh
Though the euro zone's third-biggest economy is still struggling, Monti has calmed the financial markets and the spread between Italy and German benchmark bonds this week fell to nearly half the level it was when he took over.
Monti, who is a life-appointed Senator, says he will not stand in next year's vote, but is willing to step in afterward if the result is not clear.
The tone of Berlusconi's statement echoed comments made and broadcast on his Mediaset television network when he entered politics in 1994, saying he would 'take the field' to save the country from communism.
In recent months, Berlusconi's hesitation to say whether or not he would run in parliamentary elections has left the centre-right in disarray just as its centre-left rivals picked their candidate, Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani, in a primary vote on Sunday.
Bersani met Monti for the first time as a candidate earlier on Wednesday, and the prime minister praised the primary vote, ANSA news agency reported citing government sources.
Troubled: October's conviction was the media mogul's first in a career seemingly dogged by criminal probes and trials that have all ended in acquittal or were thrown out after time ran out to prosecute
TRIALS AND ACCUSATIONS: SILVIO BERLUSCONI'S MANY SCRAPES WITH LAW
Who me Berlusconi's career has been dogged by scandal and criminal probe
Jailed for four years for tax fraud involving the buying of television
rights for films at inflated prices and skimming the difference.
Charged with having sex with nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug when
she was under the age of 18. He is also charged with abusing his
political powers to cover up the relationship.
Charged for alleged abuse of office connected with the publication of
confidential wiretaps by the Italian newspaper Il Giornale.
October 2009: He describes himself as ‘the most persecuted person in the entire history of the world’.
He blocks the publication of hundreds of photos said to show
scantily-clad young women attending his ‘bunga bunga’ parties. He is
later forced to deny claims he hired prostitutes to attend the parties
and that he offered one woman, Patrizia D'Addario, a seat in the
David Mills – a British lawyer who had acted on behalf of Berlusconi in
the early 1990s and estranged husband of Tessa Jowell – is found guilty
of accepting a large bribe, allegedly from Berlusconi, and is sentenced
to four-and-a-half years in jail.
A controversial law is passed granting the prime minister, president
and two parliamentary speakers immunity from prosecution while in office
– triggering the suspension of two court cases against Berlusconi.
2004: He is cleared of corruption.
2001: He is accused of embezzlement, tax fraud and false accounting.
He is accused of bribing a judge while his holding company Fininvest
tried to buy-out the Mondadori publishing house. The case timed out
during the appeal stage.
is accused of trying to bribe a judge to block the buy-out of the food
industry conglomerate SME by the Italian industrialist Carlo De
Benedetti in 1985. He is acquitted in 2007.
Sentenced to 16 months in prison for false accounting in his purchase
of the Medusa cinema company. Acquitted on appeal in 2000.
Accused of buying footballer Gianluigi Lentini for AC Milan, which he
owned, for 13million with money from a slush fund. But he enacted a
law effectively decriminalising false accounting.
to two years and four months for illegally financing the Italian
Socialist Party through an offshore company to the tune of 21 billion
lire (8billion). The case timed out during the appeal stage.
1994: Sentenced to 33 months in prison for trying to bribe a member of the
financial police but charges were dropped after the statute of
limitations ran out.