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Berlusconi Says He ‘Forced’ to Stay in Politics by Court Ruling

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy's outgoing prime minister, leaves after a hand over ceremony with Mario Monti, Italy's incoming prime minister, unseen, at the Chigi palace in Rome, Italy, on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011. Photographer: Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg

Three days after announcing that he would not seek the Italian premiership again, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he feels “forced” to stay in politics after a Milan court found him guilty of tax fraud in a television-rights trial.

“There will be consequences,” Berlusconi said today in an interview on the news bulletin of his Mediaset Spa’s Canale 5 when asked to comment on the verdict. “I feel forced to remain in politics to reform the justice system, so that what happened to me will not happen to other citizens.”

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.

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