Berlusconi backs ex-minister as his successor

July 8th, 2011 - 8:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Naples, July 8 (IANS/AKI) Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will not run for office again and wants former justice minister Angelino Alfano to lead the centre-right party into the 2013 elections, the premier said Friday.

“I won’t stand again… I will help Angelino Alfano in the election campaign and act as ‘patron’… I will be 77 then and won’t be able to be prime minister any more,” he told the Italian daily La Repubblica in an interview.

“If I could go now, I would,” stated 74-year-old Berlusconi.

Alfano now heads Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party after being elected its secretary July 1. At 40 years old, he stands out for his relative youth in a country where political leaders are commonly old enough to be his father.

Berlusconi also told the daily he has no aspirations to become Italy’s president, a job currently held by 86-year-old Giorgio Napolitano.

“It’s just not for me,” he stated, saying he would like his chief of staff Gianni Letta to become Italian president.

Berlusconi also took a swipe at Italy’s Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti in the interview. Often praised by the premier for resisting a government spending spree to stimulate the economy, Tremonti come under attack by members of the government for too tightly controlling the public purse strings.

“He thinks he’s a genius and that everyone else is an idiot. I put up with him because I’ve known him for a while and accept him for what he is. But he’s not a team player… he only speaks to the markets,” Berlusconi told Repubblica.

The PdL’s approval ratings have fallen as Berlusconi struggles to boost Italy’s stumbling economy and bolster his image amid four criminal trials. Three of the trials are linked to his media empire and one tied to a sex scandal. He denies wrongdoing in all of the cases.

A survey in June showed that Berlusconi’s popularity amongst voters has hit a record low. The poll carried out by IPR marketing for the left-leaning daily La Repubblica put Berlusconi’s personal approval rating at 29 percent in June, down from 40 percent at the start of 2011.

–IANS/AKI
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