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POLITICS

Italy’s Berlusconi hospitalised ahead of EU elections

Former Italian prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, 82, was hospitalised in Milan on Tuesday, reportedly with kidney stone pain.

Italy's Berlusconi hospitalised ahead of EU elections
Milan's San Raffaele hospital, where the politician is being treated. Photo: AFP

Sources within his Forza Italia party told Italian media the three-time prime minister was not suffering from anything more serious than renal colic and was “talking on the phone and coordinating.”

He had been due to attend a Forza Italia meeting Tuesday ahead of next month's European parliamentary elections, in which he is standing, but doctors at Milan's San Raffaele hospital had prevented him and he was expected to spend the night in hospital.

Silvio Berlusconi on the campaign trail. Photo: AFP

A former cruise-ship singer turned property and media magnate, Berlusconi was Italian prime minister for his centre-right Forza Italia party on three occasions between 1994 and 2011.

Despite his regular brushes with the law and health concerns, the man known as “the immortal” for his longevity in politics led the Italian right for more than two decades.

Berlusconi has faced a string of charges over the so-called Rubygate scandal linked to his parties and the underaged prostitute Karima El-Mahroug, also known as “Ruby the heart-stealer”.

The billionaire businessman is currently on trial for paying a witness to give false testimony about his notoriously hedonistic parties.

Berlusconi is also being investigated or prosecuted for witness tampering in Milan, Siena, Rome and Turin, each time for allegedly paying people to keep quiet about his so-called bunga-bunga parties.

READ ALSO: Berlusconi's back: Understanding the enduring popularity of Italy's 'immortal' former PM

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POLITICS

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Days after Italy's far-right leader made a multilingual appeal to foreign commentators to take her seriously, her main rival in September elections issued his own tit-for-tat video Saturday condemning her record.

Italian rivals pitch abroad in trilingual vote videos

Former prime minister Enrico Letta, leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, declared his pro-European credentials in a video in English, French and Spanish, while deriding the euroscepticism of Italy’s right-wing parties.

It echoes the trilingual video published this week by Giorgia Meloni, tipped to take power in the eurozone’s third largest economy next month, in which she sought to distance her Brothers of Italy party from its post-fascist roots.

“We will keep fighting to convince Italians to vote for us and not for them, to vote for an Italy that will be in the heart of Europe,” Letta said in English.

His party and Meloni’s are neck-and-neck in opinion polls ahead of September 25 elections, both with around 23 percent of support.

But Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni is part of an alliance with ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi and anti-immigration leader Matteo Salvini, Letta has struggled to unite a fractured centre-left.

Speaking in French perfected in six years as a dean at Sciences Po university in Paris, Letta emphasised European solidarity, from which Italy is currently benefiting to the tune of almost 200 billion euros ($205 billion) in
post-pandemic recovery funds.

“We need a strong Europe, we need a Europe of health, a Europe of solidarity. And we can only do that if there is no nationalism inside European countries,” he said.

He condemned the veto that he said right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor “Orban — friends and allies of the Italian right — is using every time he can (to) harm Europe”.

In Spanish, Letta highlighted Meloni’s ties with Spain’s far-right party Vox, at whose rally she spoke earlier this summer, railing at the top of her voice against “LGBT lobbies”, Islamist violence, EU bureaucracy and mass
immigration.

In English, he condemned the economic legacy of Berlusconi, a three-time premier who left office in 2011 as Italy was on the brink of economic meltdown, but still leads his Forza Italia party.

Letta’s programme includes a focus on green issues — he intends to tour Italy in an electric-powered bus — and young people, but he has made beating Meloni a key plank of his campaign.

Meloni insisted in her video that fascism was in the past, a claim greeted with scepticism given her party still uses the logo of a flame used by the Italian Social Movement set up by supporters of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

In a joint manifesto published this week, Meloni, Berlusconi and Salvini committed themselves to the EU but called for changes to its budgetary rules — and raised the prospect of renegotiating the pandemic recovery plan.

Elections were triggered by the collapse of Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government last month, and are occurring against a backdrop of soaring inflation, a potential winter energy crisis and global uncertainty sparked by
the Ukraine war.

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