Tajani becomes PM choice for Berlusconi
ROME – Reuters
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani said on March 1 he would stand as candidate for prime minister for former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, or “Go Italy!” party, in the March 4 vote.
Berlusconi, 81, has served as Italy’s prime minister four times, but is barred from holding public office until 2019 because of a 2013 tax fraud conviction.
Berlusconi had announced on Feb. 27 that Tajani, a Forza Italia co-founder in 1994, was his preferred premier candidate in the parliamentary election, but said Tajani had not yet accepted the offer.
On March 1, Tajani responded on Twitter, thanking Berlusconi for “his gesture of great respect toward me. I told him that I was willing to serve Italy.”
Berlusconi welcomed Tajani’s announcement shortly after an appearance on a talk show on one of the media magnate’s own TV channels.
“I know it’s a shame to take Antonio Tajani away from Europe, but it’s in the best interest of Italy,” Berlusconi said.
Tajani, 64, has been one of Berlusconi’s most loyal lieutenants, staying by his side when the veteran leader, engulfed by sex scandals, was forced to resign as prime minister in 2011 at the height of a sovereign debt crisis.
March 1 was the last day of campaigning allowed before the March 4 vote. Berlusconi’s center-right alliance was seen winning the most seats before a poll blackout came into force on Feb. 16, but still falling short of a governing majority.
Berlusconi’s coalition partners include the anti-migrant League and nationalist Brothers of Italy. They have agreed that if the bloc wins an absolute majority on March 4, the party which takes the most votes can pick the next premier.