Silvio Berlusconi 'to run for Italy PM again'

BY: Abigail Bonsu

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party has given strong indications that he will run for office again next year.

The People of Freedom (PDL) party has cancelled its leadership primary and a senior figure said Mr Berlusconi would run for PM again.

Earlier on Thursday the party abstained from confidence votes in parliament.

Prime Minister Mario Monti's government won votes in both houses, but the move plunged Italy into uncertainty.

Mr Berlusconi resigned in 2011 over Italy's economic troubles and was convicted of tax fraud in October of this year.

Despite this, the PDL's Secretary General Angelino Alfano was quoted in Italian media on Thursday as saying the 76-year-old would run again.

Mr Berlusconi himself also said on Wednesday that he was being "assailed by requests" to return to politics.

He has already served as Italy's prime minister for three separate terms and built up what is believed to be a vast personal fortune from his business empire.

Economic reforms

The PDL's decision to walk out of a vote of confidence is being seen as an effort by the party to distance itself from the policies of Mr Monti's government ahead of next year's election, expected to be held in March.

Mr Monti replaced Mr Berlusconi as prime minster just over a year ago, and launched a programme of reforms aimed at pulling Italy out of economic crisis.

President Giorgio Napolitano said he wanted to avoid a "turbulent" end to Mr Monti's technocratic government.

Fabrizio Cicchitto, the leader of the centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) in the lower house, said the party abstained from the vote "to show our strongly critical view of their economic policies".

But he later indicated that they would not attempt to bring down the government