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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1584

He is back! : Berlusconi to run for the fourth term as premier in Italy

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

“I am running to win,” said Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian Prime Minister, who was forced to silvio_1.gifresign after becoming the most notable focal point of the critical state of the Italian economy last year, during a visit to AC Milan Soccer training centre on Saturday. Beaming with confidence while being surrounded by scores of supporters, Mr Berlusconi’s body language implied he meant ‘business’ with the declaration - the very thing Italy needs to shore up its coffers after seeing a technocrat at the helm for over a year.

Mr Berlusconi has been convicted of tax evasion and is currently on trial for alleged sexual escapades with underage girls. He, however, is appealing against the former and relatively-complex appealing process, judging by his previous brushes against law, is certainly on Berlusconi’s side; in Italian legal system, two levels of appeals must be exhausted before a conviction is upheld.

As for the charge in relation to the sexual liaisons, Mr Berlusconi denies them: he always maintained that he simply was having fun – exercised his right to do so; Mr Berlusconi said during the trial he thought that Ruby-the-Heart-Stealer, the teenage dancer in question, was the granddaughter of Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president; Mr Berlusconi, meanwhile, received a substantial legal boost when Ruby-the-Heart-Stealer also denied having sex with the 76-year-old media baron.

It has been a year since Italian chose Mario Monti, a respected technocrat, as the premier in the aftermath of Mr Berlusconi’s resignation with the full blessings of the international community. The measures adopted by Mr Monty – rise of retirement age, increase sales tax and property tax on the primary residences – however, failed to turn the economy around and Mr Monti’s popularity is fading as fast as the hope for any imminent economic recovery.

The timing chose by Mr Berlusconi to announce his comeback, clearly indicates that his talent for gauging the pulse of the nation is certainly on a par with his ability to read the heartbeat of a string of young glamorous Italian models in the past. With this development, Mr Berlusconi proved political pundits wrong – not for the first time – for writing him off as a ‘political-has-been’.

According to Mr Berlusconi, the campaign is already ‘on’. He insisted on Saturday that he is coming back out of a sense of responsibility. Then he justified his change of mind: his party, Freedom People Party, says Mr Berlusconi, failed to find a leader and he was compelled to run owing to lack of alternatives. Mr Monti, meanwhile, announced late on Saturday that he would resign after the budget while leaving Mr Berlusconi unmistakably under the spotlight. Mr Berlusconi’s centre-right party had already withdrawn its support for Mr Monti – much before the announcement.

At present, opinion polls are not in favor of Mr Berlusconi – or the party he leads for that matter. The combination of charisma, a catalogue of controversies, superman image and his amiable nature, however, can be an explosive electoral stimulus for the Italians who are weary of choosing political leaders when the economy is teetering towards a fiscal abyss. On the other hand, opinion polls get things wrong too.

Mr Berlusconi vaguely indicated the path he will be pursuing to turn the economy around. “Austerity in an economy that does not grow is harmful and harm has been done,” said he while letting Italians catch a glimpse of his economic policy. Mr Berlusconi, who always had problems with country’s judiciary, took a swipe at the institution by saying that he was scared of what he called ‘omnipotent judiciary’.

Mr Berlusconi, a fierce optimist about a quick recovery of the Italian economy, is yet to spell out his ‘master plan’ for the Herculean task. His fellow Europeans do not underestimate his ability to trigger off giggles on regular basis once he is installed at the helm again at a time, when the despair is playing hide and seek across the continent with statistical gobbledygook.

With the re-emergence of the political stalwart, generations of Italians will struggle to find the appropriate place for Mr Berlusconi along the long rosary of geniuses who once walked on the land of Italy including painters, architects, musicians, sculptors, writers and poets.

Viva Italia!

- Asian Tribune -

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