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Mon Nov 24 07:14:39 SAST 2014

Berlusconi waits in the shadows

Reuters | 27 November, 2012 00:08
File photo of Silvio Berlusconi.
Image by: ALESSANDRO BIANCHI / REUTERS

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will wait to see who his centre-left adversaries choose as their candidate for elections expected in March before deciding whether to run himself, he said yesterday.

Berlusconi, who previously ruled out running, said he would wait to see whether the left chose frontrunner Democratic Party leader Pier Luigi Bersani, 61, or his younger rival, Matteo Renzi, in a second-round vote on December 2.

Renzi, the 37-year-old mayor of Florence, who is running as a moderniser and lagged former communist Bersani in a first-round vote on Sunday, would be a tougher rival for Berlusconi in the election to succeed Mario Monti as prime minister, a poll showed last week.

"With Renzi, Italy could have a social democratic party like Germany and England," Berlusconi said in an interview with his Canale5 television station.

The 76-year-old media billionaire's once-dominant People of Freedom party is third in opinion polls, trailing the Democratic Party by more than 10 percentage points and behind comic Beppe Grillo's nascent anti-establishment Five Star Movement by about five points.

Berlusconi's credibility was reduced to tatters a year ago when he resigned to make room for Monti's technocrat government amid charges that he had sex with an underage prostitute.

The magnate did not confirm reports in newspapers, including Il Giornale, a right-wing daily owned by his family, that he would form a new party that might be unveiled later this week.

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