Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi revived Forza Italia, his first political party, in a televised plea for help against the criminal trials and adversaries that threaten to end his career.
“They think they have put me out of politics with a monstrous, politicized sentence,” Berlusconi, 76, said in the 18-minute address aired today on Italian television stations including SkyTG24. “I’m telling all decent Italians with common sense to react, protest, make yourselves heard. You have the obligation to do something strong and big to get out of the situation they put us in.”
Berlusconi blamed the judiciary and political rivals he called “The Left” for attacking him personally and corrupting the rule of law. The three-time premier, who has been convicted of tax fraud and paying a minor for sex in the last 11 months, withheld any expression of support for Prime Minister Enrico Letta in the video.
The backing of Berlusconi, who leads the second-biggest party in Letta’s coalition, is key to the government’s survival. The alliance has come under stress as Letta’s Democratic Party, a union-backed force that describes itself as “center-left,” supports proceedings in the Senate to strip Berlusconi of his seat.
“I am here to ask you, each of you, to open their eyes, to react and get in the game to combat this Left and this use of justice for political reasons,” Berlusconi said. “I never committed a crime. I’m not guilty of anything. I am innocent, I am absolutely innocent.”
Berlusconi, who appeals to professionals and entrepreneurs at the ballot box, has been in rivalry with the Democratic Party and its predecessor parties for nearly two decades. The two sides set aside their differences and teamed up in April after neither won enough votes in February elections to govern alone.
In the video appeal, Berlusconi appealed specifically to Italians standing trial, suggesting they were victims of a flawed system.
“We can’t allow Italy to remain closed in the cage of a sick justice system that every day leaves its mark on the live flesh of millions of Italians involved in civil or criminal trials,” Berlusconi said.
Berlusconi created Forza Italia, a stadium chant translated as “Go Italy!,” when he entered politics to run in the 1994 election, which he won. Berlusconi, who accumulated a fortune of more than $7 billion building businesses from real estate to television, subsequently enlarged his party and changed the name, most recently to People of Liberty.