Silvio Berlusconi has given up his last big political dream. The former Prime Minister and scandalous entrepreneur officially withdrew from the race for the office of Italian President on Saturday evening. At a virtual top meeting of the centre-right parties, the 85-year-old announced that he was no longer available.
Now his Forza Italia party and the right-wing Lega and Fratelli d’Italia want to find and present another candidate to succeed Sergio Mattarella. The election begins Monday afternoon and is expected to last for days. Traditionally, there are no official applicants in Italy.
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Berlusconi decided not to run: “I will serve my country in a different way”
“I have decided to take a different path towards national responsibility and ask that you refrain from proposing my name as President of the Republic,” Berlusconi said. “I will serve my country in a different way.”
He had recently tried intensively to win enough electors for the votes. He now claimed that he would not run for office, even though he had secured the necessary votes – that is, at least 505 of the 1,009 electors. That can be doubted. In the past few days, experts and helpers have indicated that Berlusconi was up to 100 voters short.
For Berlusconi, who was prime minister four times but also attracted attention primarily through scandals and criminal cases and is still on trial in connection with the so-called “bunga bunga parties,” an election as president would have been a belated satisfaction.
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Prime Minister Mario Draghi is one of the favorites for the election
While the party leaders of Lega (Matteo Salvini) and Fratelli d’Italia (Giorgia Meloni) recently officially backed Berlusconi’s candidacy, the center-left parties firmly rejected a possible election of the 85-year-old. Giuseppe Conte of the Five Star Movement called for a “serious exchange” between the parties in search of a serious president. Lega boss Salvini meanwhile made it clear that the centre-right now had “the honor and responsibility to make his suggestions”.
Most recently, Prime Minister Mario Draghi was one of the favorites for the election. But Berlusconi and other party leaders are urging Draghi to remain in his current position in order to continue his successful work until the end of the 2023 legislative period. If the former head of the ECB takes over the presidency, there is a risk of new parliamentary elections and a temporary halt to reforms.