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File photo of Silvio Berlusconi. Riccardo De Luca/AP

Berlusconi announces fresh run for prime minister

This will be the the politician’s sixth bid to become prime minister, a post he has held three times already.

SILVIO BERLUSCONI TODAY ended weeks of speculation by announcing he would run again for the job of prime minister, the post he was forced out of last year.

“I am running to win,” the leader of the right-wing populist People of Freedom (PDL) party told journalists in Milanello, near the northern city of Milan.

He had called a meeting of the PDL for tomorrow and had opened talks with his former coalition allies the Northern League to try to agree on a joint campaign backing a single candidate, he added.

“When I did sport, when I worked and studied, I never entered into a competition to be well-placed but always to win,” he said.

“I hope to be in a position to be able to explain to Italians that there is a need for a force that enjoys a majority to change the rules of the constitution.”

A general election is expected to be held in March or April of next year but the precise date has not been set, nor is there any agreement on a reform of an election law widely seen as unsatisfactory.

Sixth bid to become prime minister

Berlusconi’s announcement confirmed comments by leading members of his party and strong hints that he had himself made over the past few days.

In October, he had said that he would not run again for the premiership. On Wednesday evening however, the 76-year-old media tycoon said he had been assailed by requests to return to the field as soon as possible.”

This will be his sixth bid to become prime minister, a post he has already held three times over a political career spanning two decades.

A parliamentary revolt forced him from office in November last year as he was fighting a series of scandals that had damaged his reputation and, said critics, the country’s standing. The financial markets had reacted so badly that Italy was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

Mario Monti took over as prime minister at the head of an unelected government of technocrats. He set about introducing a policy of tax rises and austerity measures to get the economy under control.

Confidence votes

On Thursday, PDL lawmakers abstained from confidence votes in the government to protest Monti’s policies, but stopped short of bringing down the executive they have supported until now.

The renewed political tension has once again spooked the financial markets and Pier Luigi Bersani, the newly-nominated leader of the centre-left Democratic Party accused Berlusconi of “incoherence”.

“It’s clear that you have not reflected on past mistakes and that for you the Monti government has not been a transition but a parenthesis that opens and closes and everything is like before,” he told PDL lawmakers in parliament.

“You are being irresponsible!” he said.

Responding today however, Berlusconi dismissed the criticism.

“Bersani has already started his election campaign and, so far as I am concerned, we have acted in a very responsible manner.”

- (c) AFP 2012.

Read: Monti clings to power as Berlusconi’s party goes on the attack>

Images: 55 pictures of Silvio Berlusconi looking sad, glum, or generally displeased>

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