Berlusconi considers a return to politics

Updated: 2012-07-12 07:31


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ROME - Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister who resigned last year, is considering a return to politics and premiership in 2013, a key ally said Wednesday.

"We are all asking him to run and I believe that in the end he will decide to lead the party," Angelino Alfano, secretary general of the People of Freedom party and Berlusconi's hand-picked political heir, said in an interview aired by Sky-Italia's TG24 news program.

Berlusconi, who stepped down last year amid personal scandal and growing fears that Italy could fall victim to the swelling European debt crisis, has not yet commented on Alfano's remarks.

When Berlusconi resigned in November 2011, he promised to dedicate himself to the day-to-day operations of Mediaset, the cinema and television giant he founded and controls.

However, the 75-year-old billionaire has never strayed far from politics, repeatedly weighing in on hot political topics and giving only qualified support to Mario Monti, an economist and former European Commissioner who took over as the head of a technocrat government after Berlusconi resigned.

Monti's approval levels erode from more than 80 percent upon taking office to just 38 percent, largely due to his tough economic and political reforms, according to the latest poll from Rome polling firm Opinioni.

That said, it is still above the 23 percent approval level Berlusconi reached in the last poll before his resignation and the 33-percent approval in the latest Opinioni poll, from mid-June. But apparently, Berlusconi smells blood in the water.

Monti's mandate is expected to expire next year, after new elections are held.

"There's no doubt that Monti is vulnerable, but that doesn't matter much because he won't run in 2013," said Maria Rossi, Opinioni's co-director.

"What is more important from Berlusconi's side is that there is no figure who has emerged as a strong candidate to take over after Monti leaves," she said.

Berlusconi could face a difficult battle to return to power, since the People of Freedom Party he founded has the support of just 18 percent of the voting public, said the latest Opinioni poll. That's the lowest level for a Berlusconi-baked party since he first entered politics in 1994.

But that had not stopped the party from turning to Berlusconi. As Alfano put it, the party has been lobbying Berlusconi to throw his hat in the ring.

The most likely path for Berlusconi to resume the post as prime minister next year is that his party would finish elections with a large voting bloc and then President Giorgio Napolitano would ask Berlusconi to try to cobble together a coalition government, said local analysts.