Silvio Berlusconi RETURNS: Ex-Prime Minister preparing to run in European elections in May

Mr Berlusconi, founder of centre-right Forza Italia, is presenting himself as the europhile alternative to the ruling populist coalition formed by Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration Lega and Luigi Di Maio’s eurosceptic Five Star Movement (M5S). The 83-year-old tycoon, who has been Prime Minister for nine years, announced on Wednesday he is leading the party in all the constituencies but the ones of central Italy for the first time since 2013, when he was convicted of tax fraud and barred from public office until 2019. His deputy, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, will be leading Forza Italia in the remaining constituencies. 

In his electoral manifesto, Mr Berlusconi spoke of the “urgency” to change Europe and told voters to let do it to those who matter in Brussels, such as the European People’s Party (EPP), of which Forza Italia has been historically a member.

Launching a harsher attack against Lega, with whom Forza Italia ran during last year’s Italian political election, and M5S than to his historical opponent, the left-wing Democratic Party (PD), Mr Berlusconi said in his manifesto: “The European elections are vital.

“It would be self-harm not to vote or keep on voting the same people who will be irrelevant the same way they have been responsible in Italy. 

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“Silvio Berlusconi has the authority and experience to give Italy a role in Europe.”

While the tycoon takes a swipe at eurosceptic, he acknowledges the need to make “deep” changes in Brussels.

Among the objectives Mr Berlusconi has pledged to follow, he backs the European Army strongly wanted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The manifesto said: “Europe is still an economic giant but remains a dwarf, politically speaking. 

“To take decisions regarding the world and make sure peace will always rule, we Europeans need to have a unified foreign policy and a European Army.

“Only this will allow us to confront and dialogue with the US, Russia and China.”

Mr Berlusconi is playing on the nostalgia of his old voters, many of whom transitioned towards Lega after Mr Salvini’s promises to curb the number of illegal immigrants reaching southern Italy by dinghies, by using billboard similar to the ones he used in his successful 2001 presidential campaign. 

The 83-year-old announced his intention to return to politics as a protagonist in January.

He said: “I will run for the European elections, I will be there to stop this Government as I was in 1994 to stop the Communists.

“You will see, soon the centre-right coalition will be reunited because the alliance between Lega and M5S is unnatural, I don’t believe they have a lot of time left.”