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Disgraced Berlusconi confirms return to politics
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, facing charges of underage sex and convicted for tax fraud, has announced that he will run once more to become the country's leader.
Disgraced former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi confirmed on Saturday that he will run once more to become the country’s prime minister.
The 76-year-old media tycoon said he was returning to politics “out of a sense of responsibility”.
“I’m going to race to win,” Berlusconi told reporters at the practice field for AC Milan, the football club he owns.
Berlusconi resigned as Prime Minister in 2011 amid a huge debt crisis and allegations that he had been involved with an underage prostitute.
In October he was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to four years in jail, which he is appealing.
Berlusconi’s decision to run for office comes two days after his People of Liberty party (PDL) withdrew its cooperation from Prime Minister Mario Monti’s government of unelected technocrats, triggering a countdown to parliamentary elections in March.
Plan to undermine budget vote?
The announcement caused market jitters on concerns that it would undermine Monti’s ambitious plan to rein in the country’s debt, although the PDL has said it would vote for his legislation, including next year’s budget.
Italy, the third-largest eurozone economy, is in recession. The government is looking to enacts unpopular measures to bring its debt level under control.
The country has the economic bloc’s second-highest debt level as a percentage of its GDP at 126 per cent, behind Greece with 150 per cent.
With opinion polls showing that the main centre-left party, which supports Monti, in line to win the election, the conservative Berlusconi appears to be distancing himself to capitalise on discontent over new taxes and rising unemployment.
He has complained that Monti’s policies have put Italy into a “spiral of recession.”
Berlusconi claims his allies are pressing him to seek election again, hoping that Monti’s painful austerity measures will win votes for the centre-right.
Despite Berlusconi’s optimism, polls give his party just 15 percent of the next vote.
“He can’t see himself leaving the stage,” Giovanni Orsina, a political science professor at Rome’s LUISS university and author of “The Right After Berlusconi” told AP.
“He actually believes he is the best, that he can’t be substituted,” said Orsina.