Berlusconi Return to Politics Won’t Include Bid for Premiership

Italian former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he won’t be seeking the premiership again while planning to return to politics after a Milan court found him guilty of tax fraud in a television-rights trial.

“I won’t run for premiership at the next election” but “will keep staying in politics,” Berlusconi said today at a press conference near Milan. “My top priority will be the fight to reform the justice system.”

Berlusconi, who earlier this week said he wouldn’t run for prime minister in coming national elections, was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison and banned from public offices for five years in a film-rights case involving Mediaset.

The former media tycoon turned Italy’s longest-serving prime minister dominated the country’s politics for almost two decades. It is unlikely that Berlusconi will serve any jail time given his age, 76, and the Italian appeals process, which can run out the statute of limitations. The court pardoned three years of the sentence.

An Oct. 24 announcement that he would not run for election next year eased speculation about his political future. Berlusconi said then that the political movement he founded in 1994 should hold primaries in December to pick its candidate for the premiership. Such a vote may pose a challenge to Angelino Alfano, the general secretary of the People of Liberty bloc, who Berlusconi had previously chosen to run the party.