Berlusconi awaits left contest before comeback decision

Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:40am EST
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By James Mackenzie

ROME (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will wait to see who his center-left adversaries choose as their candidate for elections expected in March before deciding whether to run himself, he said on Monday.

In his latest switch of position, Berlusconi, who previously ruled out running, said he would wait to see whether the left chose frontrunner Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani, 61, or his younger rival Matteo Renzi in a second-round vote on December 2.

Renzi, the 37-year-old mayor of Florence who is running as a modernizer and lagged former communist Bersani in a first-round vote on Sunday, would be a tougher rival to Berlusconi in the election to succeed Mario Monti as prime minister, a poll showed last week.

"With Renzi, Italy could have a Social Democratic party like other countries such as Germany and England," Berlusconi said in an interview with his Canale 5 television.

The 76-year-old media billionaire's once-dominant People of Freedom party (PDL) is third in opinion polls, trailing the PD by more than 10 percentage points and behind comic Beppe Grillo's nascent anti-establishment 5-Star Movement by about five points.

Berlusconi's credibility was reduced to tatters a year ago when he resigned to make room for Monti's technocrat government amid charges he had sex with an underage prostitute.

The magnate did not confirm reports in newspapers including Il Giornale, a right-wing daily owned by his family, that he would form a new party that could be unveiled later this week.

Italy needs a complete transformation, Berlusconi said.   Continued...

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures as he speaks during a news conference at Villa Gernetto in Gerno near Milan October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo