Saturday 25 February 2017

Berlusconi rules out fourth PM bid

Nick Squires in Rome

Silvio Berlusconi has definitively ruled out trying to become prime minister of Italy for a fourth time, while claiming that he remains so popular among Italians that he "stops traffic" in the streets.

Three months after sex scandals and a national economic crisis forced his resignation, the billionaire media tycoon said he was still young at 75 and showed off a bruise that he claimed he had sustained while playing ice hockey with Vladimir Putin, Russia's prime minister.

He claimed that his approval ratings remained at 36pc, making him more popular than Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, or Nicholas Sarkozy, the French president, and said he might stand for election again as an MP.

"I still have strong popular backing... If I walk out in the street I stop the traffic. I'm a public danger and I cannot go out to do the shopping," Mr Berlusconi said.

The flamboyant former cruise ship singer blamed his downfall in part on press coverage of the "bunga bunga" sex scandals that marked his third and final term in office.

He is on trial in Milan accused of abuse of office and paying for sex with an under age prostitute, a Moroccan-born teenage runaway who went by the stage name of Ruby the Heart Stealer.

In the interview with the 'Financial Times', Mr Berlusconi said that when he stepped down in November last year, he did so "with elegance" -- despite the fact that he was booed and jeered by large crowds in Rome, with people yelling "buffoon" and "thief" at his passing motorcade as he arrived at the presidential palace to hand in his resignation.

He repeated his mantra that throughout his political career, which began in 1994, he had been unfairly hounded by a biased, left-wing judiciary, which he has accused in the past of being as radicalised as "the Taliban". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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