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Berlusconi, 76, to finally step down at next election

The former prime minister says he won’t be looking to take back power next spring, and will retire from his party.

Image: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

FORMER ITALIAN PREMIER Silvio Berlusconi has confirmed he will not run in elections early next year, and hand his People of Freedom party over to a successor – ending months of uncertainty over his candidacy and readying himself for retirement.

“I will not be presenting my candidacy but I will remain at the side of younger people who can play and score goals,” said the media magnate, who founded the party in 2009 and is famous for talking politics in football terms.

The 76-year-old tycoon, who owns AC Milan and three national television channels as well as several private villas, said in a statement that his successor would be appointed by the end of December following a party vote.

“I still have good muscles and a head on my shoulders, but my role will be to give advice,” he said.

“For the love of Italy one can do crazy and wise things. Eighteen years ago I came onto the scene, a mad move that did not lack wisdom: I now take a step back,” the billionaire said, putting to an end speculation over his return.

The move came as his scandal-hit PDL party tries to boost its credibility following a series of investigations into misuse of party funds.

The former prime minister had retreated from the political frontlines after handing over power in November 2011 to former European competition commissioner Mario Monti amid a parliamentary revolt and a wave of financial market panic.

There had been speculation since then as to whether he would try a comeback. The PDL has suffered a series of local election setbacks and is riven by infighting, and many supporters had been urging Berlusconi to return to lead the party in the upcoming elections, set for April next year.

Berlusconi said it was now up to party secretary Angelino Alfano “and a new generation of young people to reproduce the miracle of 1994″, when the man famed for his love of wild parties was first appointed prime minister.

- © AFP, 2012

Read: The Top 7 Silvio moments

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