Ber­lus­coni teases come­back, EP chief Ta­jani plays coy on PM chances

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Sil­vio Ber­lus­coni has re­vealed that he is “avail­able” to be Italy’s prime min­is­ter in 2019 if next Sun­day’s elec­tion yields a hung par­lia­ment and a re-run of the vote. But his likely pick for the top job, in case a gov­ern­ment can be formed, has played down his in­ter­est in ac­cept­ing the ap­point­ment.

Ber­lus­coni is banned from hold­ing pub­lic of­fice thanks to a tax fraud con­vic­tion in 2013. But that pun­ish­ment ex­pires next year and the Forza Italia leader would be free to reign once more as prime min­is­ter if the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self.

Dur­ing a Face­book live in­ter­view or­gan­ised by Ital­ian news agency Ansa on Tues­day, the bil­lion­aire me­dia mogul was asked if he would be will­ing to take on the post for the fifth time if the 4 March elec­tion proves in­con­clu­sive. “I am avail­able,” the 81-year-old replied. A hung par­lia­ment is one of the out­comes that have not been ruled out, in which case a fresh vote would most likely be sched­uled for next year. Other pos­si­bil­i­ties in­clude a coali­tion be­tween Ber­lus­coni’s party and two far-right par­ties but pub­lic opin­ion is un­clear as polls are pro­hib­ited 15 days be­fore an elec­tion in Italy.

Vot­ers are cast­ing their bal­lots for the first time un­der a new elec­toral law, which dic­tates that a coali­tion must garner 40% of the vote in or­der to form a ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment.

Should Forza Italia and Ber­lus­coni get their way and re­ceive the big­gest slice of the pie in the vote, the for­mer PM will ef­fec­tively be­come a king­maker and de­cide who should be ap­pointed to the po­si­tion.

Ber­lus­coni said once again be­fore his Face­book ap­pear­ance that cur­rent Euro­pean Par­lia­ment Pres­i­dent An­to­nio Ta­jani is still his num­ber one choice for prime min­is­ter. Last week, he in­sisted that Ta­jani would “make the in­ter­ests of Italy count in the EU”.

But the Par­lia­ment chief has re­mained coy about his chances of get­ting Ber­lus­coni’s nod or even want­ing the post at all. Dur­ing an in­ter­view with Ger­man news­pa­per Die Welt, Ta­jani said he would like to keep his cur­rent job.

Ta­jani, a for­mer Euro­pean Com­mis­sioner, also said that Ber­lus­coni was “the last great states­man” that Italy had, prais­ing the way he dealt with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin dur­ing his time in charge.

He also re­it­er­ated his sup­port for an EU re­form along the lines of French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s ideas, say­ing Europe needs its own fi­nance min­is­ter and a com­pleted bank­ing union.

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