Saturday 24 August 2019

Berlusconi picks up EU campaign outside hospital

The former Italian premier was admitted to hospital last week after suffering an intestinal blockage.

(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
(AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

By Frances D'Emilio, Associated Press

Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has been discharged from a Milan hospital six days after intestinal surgery and vowed to continue his campaign for a seat in the European Parliament.

Mr Berlusconi, 82, told reporters outside San Raffaele Hospital he had some fear when he was admitted to hospital last week for abdominal pain, which led to a diagnosis of an intestinal blockage.

“This made me think I had reached the end of the line. Instead, I made a formidable comeback,” he said.

He said he would rest for a while and not lead any election rallies but would campaign for a seat in the European Union legislature on TV, radio and other media.

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Silvio Berlusconi waves as he leaves San Raffaele Hospital (Antonio Calanni/AP)

He is running in this month’s election for Forza Italia, the party the media mogul founded quarter of a century ago.

“I still feel useful for the future of Italians, Europeans and of the West,” Mr Berlusconi said.

After leaving hospital, he wasted no time blasting the populist coalition now governing Italy, saying the two coalition partners “can only do one thing, squabble”.

One of the governing parties is the right-wing, anti-migrant League party, which was a key ally in Mr Berlusconi’s own coalition governments as premier in three stints.

Led by hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini, the party has seen soaring popularity in opinion polls and tension with its governing partner, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement.

Mr Berlusconi said he hopes Forza Italia will be a linchpin of a majority centre-right alliance in the European Parliament that could keep nationalist forces at bay.

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Matteo Salvini and Viktor Orban (Szilard Koszticsak/MTI/AP)

He laid out a vision for a trans-European centre-right partnership, including perhaps Mr Salvini and “that crazy head of Orban”, a reference to right-wing Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban.

Mr Salvini has been wooing Mr Orban for a different political alliance, and the two bonded in Hungary last week over their determination to keep migrants and asylum-seekers out of Europe.

He has been working with far-right movements in France, Germany and other northern countries to create a strong populist group in the European Parliament, with the aim of reshaping the continent’s policies.

Mr Berlusconi said he wants to see the EU become a world power on a military level and to “assume the role of unifying the West, which today is divided”.

If elected to the European Parliament, it would be Mr Berlusconi’s first public office since he was forced to give up his Italian Senate seat due to a ban from a 2012 tax fraud conviction.

Citing his good conduct, a court last year ruled that Mr Berlusconi could be a political candidate again.

PA Media

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