Berlusconi withdraws as candidate to win electoral pact
By Barry Moody
ROME (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi withdrew as candidate for Italy's premiership on Monday as the price of a pact with the devolutionist Northern League that could prevent the formation of a stable government after next month's election.
Berlusconi has been striving for weeks to seal the deal with his estranged former allies to strengthen the center-right bloc, under a strategy to stymie the center-left government that is expected to emerge from the election on February 24-25.
The League had previously refused a pact because of rank-and-file opposition to the scandal-plagued Berlusconi being candidate for prime minister.
The media magnate was driven from office a year ago at the height of Italy's economic crisis after he was charged with having sex with an under-age prostitute.
League leader Roberto Maroni confirmed the coalition pact, telling a news conference it "says explicitly that the candidate for prime minister will not be Silvio Berlusconi".
"Silvio Berlusconi accepted the request not to stand as prime minister," he said.
Earlier, in an interview on the Italian radio station RTL, Berlusconi had left the issue of the premiership in a future center-right government open. He said he would prefer to be the economy minister and that most likely Angelino Alfano, secretary of his People of Freedom (PDL) party, would be the prime ministerial candidate.
Berlusconi wanted the alliance with the League to increase his chance of winning enough seats in the upper house, or Senate, to make it hard for the next government to pass laws. Continued...