Berlusconi starts comeback with Renzi attack
Silvo Berlusconi took the first step towards a comeback as he spoke at a rally of conservative parties hoping to oust centre-left prime minister Matteo Renzi.
The rally was organised by the anti-immigrant Northern League party, led by 42-year-old Matteo Salvini, which has eclipsed former prime minister Berlusconi's Forza Italia to emerge as the largest force on the right.
Berlusconi (79) has kept a low profile since he was convicted of tax evasion and banned from public office in 2013, but he attended yesterday's rally along with Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the small, far-right Brothers of Italy party.
"With this new-found unity, staying together and fighting together, we will win the next elections," Berlusconi told tens of thousands of marchers crammed into Bologna's main square.
People waved Northern League, Forza Italia and Brothers of Italy flags and chanted slogans against Mr Renzi and his government. "Go home, Renzi! Let's free ourselves, let's start again!" read one slogan.
In a blunt speech, Mr Salvini took aim at targets ranging from Italy being too lax on immigrants, the government allowing multinationals to buy Italian firms and lay people off, to a lack of opportunities for the young.
Hundreds of police were deployed to keep order around Bologna's city centre. Riot police charged hundreds of left-wing protesters who threw firecrackers.
Opinion polls put the Northern League on 14pc, in third place behind Renzi's Democratic Party (PD), on 31pc, and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, on 27pc. Forza Italia is polling at about 12pc.