Berlusconi to rename party "Forza Italia" but coy on return

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 16, 2012 7:30 AM
Berlusconi to rename party "Forza Italia" but coy on return

ROME (Reuters) - Silvio Berlusconi will rename his center-right People of Freedom (PDL) party with its original title "Forza Italia" (Go Italy), the former Italian premier told Germany's Bild daily, adding to signs that he is planning a return to frontline politics.

However Berlusconi did not confirm that he would stand as candidate for premier in elections next year.

"I am often and insistently asked to do this," he told the newspaper. "I can only say this much, I will never let my People of Freedom party down," he said in an interview published on Monday.

"Incidentally, we are soon going back to the old party name, Forza Italia," he said.

Forza Italia, the political party Berlusconi created when he became prime minister for the first time in 1994, was merged with other conservative groups to become the PDL in 2008 but he has often talked of reverting to the original name.

Berlusconi, who still faces trial over accusations he paid for sex with a teenager, has kept a relatively low profile since he was forced from office last year in the middle of a financial crisis that threatened to force Italy to default on its 1.9 trillion euro public debt.

Senior officials from the PDL have said that Berlusconi will be the center-right candidate in the 2013 elections and the 75 year-old media tycoon has given clear hints that he intends to get back into politics.

Opinion polls suggest the PDL and its allies would lose to a center-left bloc but supporters are hoping Berlusconi's return would help unify the center-right and win back supporters who deserted the party in droves in local elections in May.

Berlusconi, who has frequently criticized the austerity policies followed by Prime Minister Mario Monti said he had a good relationship with Germany but said he was against "exaggeratedly strict budget rigor" because it hampered progress.

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"We want a more European Germany and not a more German Europe," he said.

"At the moment, you can feel a certain German position of predominance in Europe and exactly for that reason, we would like to see European policies from Berlin that are far-sighted, open and in solidarity," he said.

Berlusconi, who in recent weeks has spoken openly about the prospect of Italy leaving the euro, said he did not believe that the single currency would be allowed to fail.

"With the euro, Germany's economic situation has improved and Italy's has got worse," he said.

"However a return to national currencies seems improbable to me. It would mean the failure of the historic project of a united Europe and no-one wants that," he said.

(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Jon Boyle)