Silvio Berlusconi to Italy: ‘you need me’
Silvio Berlusconi has declared that he is running for office because Italy needs him, as he went on the offensive attacking Angela Merkel and Mario Monti.
By Andrea Vogt, Bologna
2:47PM GMT 19 Dec 2012
When asked if he intended to seek office for the fourth time in 20 years, he proclaimed: “You need me. And I don’t hold back when I feel the obligation to help to those in need.”
Wielding both carrot and stick, he pledged to abolish the unpopular new property tax, but he also sounded ominous warnings that an Italy led by technocrats – or the “ignorant left” – would lead to a disaster like Greece, with its “social civil war.”
The media tycoon renewed criticism of Mr Monti’s austerity measures, claiming: “The situation has deteriorated with the politics of austerity.”
The only woman Mr Berlusconi talked about was not his new 27-year-old fiancee Francesca Pascale, but rather “Signora Merkel,” the German chancellor, who he appeared decidedly less fond of. Germany, he said, fears inflation because of its past and is holding back growth that could come from printing more currency. He also lashed out at gap in the cost of borrowing.
“The emergency is not over because there is still a five-point difference between what Germany and Nordic countries pay for money and what we pay for money.”
The 76-year-old billionaire, seemingly unconcerned by the legal troubles he still faces, vowed to lower taxes, noting at one point the “many French” fleeing their country’s’ heavy taxation – an oblique reference to news that the actor Gerard Depardieu had threatened to hand in his French passport in protest.
When asked if Italians were “tired” of him, Mr Berlusconi said the country will “show it with their vote”, predicting he’d win with 40 per cent, especially if he uses all 123 television hours he claims he is owed after staying quiet for so long.
It was the third consecutive day of unusually long television appearances by Mr Berlusconi, whose powerful media empire has helped him become Italy’s premier three times already.
The three-day “Berlusconi show” raised eyebrows among politicians and media watchdog groups. The public also appears wary, with current polls giving him just half the support of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) led by Pier Luigi Bersani.
After a Brussels meeting with European Council president Herman Van Rompuy, Mr Bersani said he shared Mr Van Rompuy’s concerns about voices of “demagoguery and populism” in Italy.
Voters are still waiting to see what Mr Monti’s next move will be, which could be the announcement of his own centrist list. Mr Monti has so far declined to respond publicly to pressure at both home and abroad for him to seek a second term.
Earlier this month, the technocrat leader threatened to resign as soon as his 2013 budget law was passed, which would trigger dissolution of parliament and elections in February. But with Mr Berlusconi’s party now delaying budget approval, elections could likely be pushed back, which may be an advantage for Mr Berlusconi, with his broad media influence.
Giorgio Napolitano, the Italian president, however urged for a swift vote, given the government’s critical situation: “It is in the interest of the country to not excessively prolong the campaign.”
This story was originally published Dec. 19, 2012 in the Telegraph: