Berlusconi Will Probably Run Again in 2013, Party Official Says

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Photographer: John Thys/AFP/GettyImages

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will probably lead his People of Liberty party into the next elections due by April 2013, the party’s Secretary General Angelino Alfano said.

“We are all asking him to run and I believe in the end, he will decide to lead the party,” Alfano said in an interview in Rome today with Sky TG24 television.

Berlusconi, 75, resigned in November at a time when Italy’s 10-year bond yield topped 7 percent and turned the government over to Prime Minister Mario Monti. Berlusconi has since then backed Monti and seen support for his party dwindle in the months since leaving power. Even with his legal woes, Berlusconi remains one of the nation’s most popular politicians. He is currently on trial charged with paying a minor for sex. Berlusconi denies the charge.

Under Monti, Italy’s yields initially declined, falling to less than 5 percent in March. In recent months, the country’s borrowing costs once again surged, topping 6 percent as recently as July 10 as Spain’s bailout request fueled concern that Italy would be next.

The jump in Italy’s yields, which pushed the premium over similar German debt to 4.5 percentage points, shows that Berlusconi was not the reason why investors shunned Italian bonds as his critics have said, Alfano said.

Berlusconi, one of Italy’s richest men with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $5.9 billion, has been elected prime minister three times and was the country’s longest-serving premier since World War II.

‘Normal’ Italy

Monti said today in a speech in Rome that the Italian political system will return to “normal” after his unelected government completes its term next year. The premier said yesterday that he didn’t intend to remain in politics after the elections, responding to speculation in the press that he could be asked to serve another term after the vote.

Berlusconi may face an uphill fight. His party would have support of just 15 percent of voters if elections were held now, the lowest since Berlusconi entered politics in 1994, according to a June 15 poll by SWG Institute. That compared with 24 percent for the Democratic Party, the main rival of Berlusconi’s party, which also supports Monti’s government.

The People of Liberty party has seen some of its backers shift to the insurgent party of comedian-turned politician Beppe Grillo, who has said Italy should consider abandoning the euro and defaulting on its debt. His Five-Star movement had 20 percent support in the poll, up from about 11 percent the previous month, SWG said.

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