Italy’s Berlusconi makes clear his PM choice will be Tajani

Veteran Italian politician leads the centre-right Forza Italia party, but is currently barred from holding public office because of tax fraud conviction

17:55 February 27, 2018
Silvio Berlusconi

Rome: Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi made clear on Tuesday he would propose Antonio Tajani, the president of the European Parliament, as prime minister if his centre-right bloc wins Italy’s March 4 election.

However, speaking on Rai state radio, Berlusconi said Tajani had not yet given him a green light to announce his decision.

“Because of the very important role he fills, I have been asked by him to put forward his name only when he gives me the go-ahead,” Berlusconi said, nonetheless leaving no doubt that his one-time spokesman would get the nod.

“Everyone can understand that he would be an excellent candidate because Italy doesn’t count for anything anymore in Europe or in the world. He would count an awful lot because he is the president of the European institution which is directly elected by European citizens.” There was no immediate comment from Tajani, who has repeatedly visited Italy in recent weeks campaigning for the centre-right alliance.

Berlusconi, who leads the centre-right Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party, has been prime minister four times, but is currently barred from holding public office because of a 2013 tax fraud conviction.

His centre-right/far-right alliance, which also includes the anti-migrant League, has agreed that if it wins an absolute majority on Sunday, the party which takes the most votes can pick the next premier. The name must then be approved by the head of state Sergio Mattarella.

Before a poll blackout came into force on February 16, surveys suggested the centre-right would win most seats but fall short of an absolute majority. Polls also showed Forza Italia maintaining a steady lead over the League.

Tajani, 64, was a monarchist activist in his youth and helped Berlusconi found Forza Italia in 1994, proving to be one of his most loyal lieutenants during more than two decades in politics.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 1994 and re-elected in 1999 and 2004. In 2008, he joined the European Commission, returning to the EU parliament in 2014. He became president of the assembly in January, 2017 when Martin Schulz left the job to return to national German politics.