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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy’s elections

Scandal-plagued former premier Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to return to Italy's parliament in upcoming elections, almost a decade after being forced out over a conviction for tax fraud.

Berlusconi to run for Senate in Italy's elections
Former Italian Prime Minister and leader of the Forza Italia party Silvio Berlusconi pictured in Rome. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

“I think that, in the end, I will be present myself as a candidate for the Senate, so that all these people who asked me will finally be happy,” the 85-year-old billionaire and media mogul told Rai radio on Wednesday.

After helping bring down Prime Minister Mario Draghi last month by withdrawing its support, Berlusconi’s centre-right Forza Italia party looks set to return to power in elections on September 25th.

It is part of a right-wing coalition led by Giorgia Meloni’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy, which includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.

Berlusconi brushed off reports he is worried about the possibility of Meloni – whose motto is “God, country and family” – becoming prime minister.

Noting the agreement between the parties that whoever wins the most votes chooses the prime minister, he said: “If it is Giorgia, I am sure she will prove capable of the difficult task.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

But he urged voters to back his party as the moderate voice in the coalition, emphasising its European, Atlanticist stance.

“Every extra vote in Forza Italia will strengthen the moderate, centrist profile of the coalition,” he said in a separate interview published Wednesday in the Il Giornale newspaper.

League party leader Matteo Salvini (L), Fratelli d’Italia leader Giorgia Meloni and Forza Italia leader Silvio Berlusconi pictured in October 2021. The trio look set to take power following snap elections in September. Photo by CLAUDIO PERI / ANSA / AFP

Berlusconi was Italy’s prime minister three times in the 1990s and 2000s, but has dominated public life for far longer as head of a vast media and sports empire.

The Senate expelled him in November 2013 following his conviction for tax fraud, and he was banned from taking part in a general election for six years.

He was elected to the European Parliament in 2019, however, and threw his hat in the ring earlier this year to become Italy’s president — although his candidacy was predictably short-lived.

Berlusconi remains a hugely controversial figure  in Italy and embroiled in the many legal wrangles that have characterised his long career.

He remains on trial for allegedly paying guests to lie about his notorious “bunga-bunga” sex parties while prime minister.

Berlusconi has also suffered a string of health issues, some related to his hospitalisation for coronavirus in September 2020, after which he said he had almost died.

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POLITICS

Biden warns Italy over election results as Draghi receives award from Ukraine

The US President Joe Biden warned that global ‘democracy is at stake’ as Italy’s outgoing PM Mario Draghi received one of Ukraine’s most prestigious awards.

Biden warns Italy over election results as Draghi receives award from Ukraine

President Joe Biden cited the far-right’s election success in Italy as evidence of what he regarded as a danger to democracy around the world, including in the United States.    

“You just saw what’s happened in Italy in that election. You’re seeing what’s happening around the world,” Biden told Democratic party governors at a late meeting on Wednesday, referring to the win by far-right leader Giorgia Meloni in Italy.   

READ ALSO: Italy will not recognise Russian referendums, says Draghi

“We can’t be sanguine about what’s happening here either,” Biden said, pointing to what he sees as anti-democratic forces led by former president Donald Trump in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

Biden said that Chinese leader Xi Jinping had told him “straight up that democracies can’t be sustained in the 21st century”. 

He added: “I don’t want to exaggerate it, but I don’t want to understate it. And it’s the reason why I’m so concerned. Democracy is at stake.”

In the meantime, Italy’s outgoing PM Mario Draghi is set to receive one of Ukraine’s most prestigious awards from President Volodymyr Zelensky, Draghi’s press office said on Thursday.  

Prime minister of Italy Mario Draghi (L) shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky following their meeting in Mariinsky Palace, in Kyiv, on June 16, 2022.

Italy’s outgoing PM is set to receive the prestigious Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise award from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP

Draghi told Zelensky that he was “honoured and moved” to be given the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise of the first degree, and “happy to receive it from your hands in Kyiv”, according to Rome’s readout of a phone call between the pair.

Established in 1995 by President Leonid Kuchma, the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, is awarded for services to the state and people of Ukraine. The medal of the order has a blue ribbon with a yellow stripe on each side.

Draghi has been one of the strongest backers of EU sanctions against Russia over the war, and Rome has sent several weapon shipments to help Kyiv.

In its own statement, the Ukrainian presidency’s office said Zelensky had praised Draghi’s role “among the names of political leaders who have supported Ukraine” since the start of Russia’s invasion.

Draghi will have to step down when a new government takes office following last Sunday’s elections, which were won by Giorgia Meloni’s far-right coalition.  

READ ALSO: Italy’s Salvini calls for Europe to ‘rethink’ sanctions on Russia

After her victory, Meloni said Ukraine could count on Italy’s support.   

Despite her former Euroscepticism, the Brothers of Italy leader has firmly backed Draghi’s position thus far. However, her government allies, far-right League leader Matteo Salvini and former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, have long had concerning ties with Moscow.   

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