Italy’s ex-prime minister: Berlusconi is apparently planning a comeback

Status: 10/22/2021 5:23 p.m.

Berlusconi is making a name for itself again – with an acquittal from the charge of bribery and ambitious political plans: At the age of 85, Italy’s ex-prime minister toying with the highest office in the state.

By Jörg Seisselberg, ARD-Studio Rome

The consequences of his Covid illness bothered him for months, he mainly acted from the background. Now Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is back in Rome and is pushing back to the front row regardless of his age.

Jörg Seisselberg
ARD-Studio Rom

The newspaper “Corriere della Sera” writes of a “pact” between the center-right parties. The goal is to make the 85-year-old multibillionaire the next Italian president.

When asked by journalists about a possible candidacy, Berlusconi smiles and speaks of himself in the third person: “I see Berlusconi in shape, after a few ailments due to Covid. But at the moment he is not thinking about it.”

Allied support

The truth is: It has long been Berlusconi’s lifelong political dream to crown his career with the highest formal office in the state. His political allies, Matteo Salvini of the Lega and Giorgia Meloni of the Brothers of Italy party, have signaled support for Berlusconi, according to concurrent reports from several Italian media outlets.

The four-time prime minister is getting additional tailwind from a first-class acquittal the day before yesterday in a trial in Siena in which he was charged with bribery.

Berlusconi continues to give his political friends and opponents advice without being asked. Among others, Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who is seen by many in Italy as the most promising candidate for the election of the President at the beginning of next year.

Berlusconi, however, says: “Draghi would certainly be an excellent president. But I wonder whether continuing his work in the current role would not bring more benefits to our country.”

So, according to Berlusconi’s wish, Draghi should continue as Prime Minister. The question that remains open is who will be Sergio Mattarella’s successor in the Quirinal Palace. The president is elected in January or February by both chambers of parliament in a joint session. The center-right parties do not have a majority there.

Even an official candidacy of Berlusconi would be a prestige success for the 85-year-old after a political career full of scandals and a final conviction for tax fraud.

But Berlusconi is obviously hoping for more. Among other things, on the fact that – as is often the case in recent history of Italy – political barter deals take place in the context of the presidential election. And that he could benefit from it with his ambitions.

Trying to appear moderate

In these days of his return, Berlusconi is making a noticeable effort to present his center-right alliance with the Lega and the post-fascist brothers of Italy as a politically moderate force. “The European leaders can rest assured that the Italian center-right alliance is far from any form of extremism or any return to the past. Our common charter of values ​​is largely similar to that of the European People’s Party,” said Berlusconi.

So the European group to which the CDU and CSU also belong. Berlusconi’s political message: Nobody needs to be afraid of the center-right alliance in Italy and thus also of a President Berlusconi.

In the Italian parliament, the charm offensive of the returned Forza Italia boss has not yet fallen on fertile ground. Romano Prodi, founding father of the co-ruling Democratic Party, has made it clear: Berlusconi as president is not an option.

Successful farewell picture with Merkel

The media mogul, however, is not discouraged when trying to make a comeback at the age of 85. Berlusconi absolutely wanted to be at the meeting of the European People’s Party in Brussels this week – to get a farewell picture with Angela Merkel.

With success: the photo was printed in large format in all the major Italian daily newspapers. Merkel looks at it rather sparingly, while Berlusconi at her side is happy and satisfied.

He’s back: Berlusconi between acquittal and president’s dream

Jörg Seisselberg, ARD Rome, 10/22/2021 4:58 p.m.

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