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'You need me': Berlusconi on new election run

19 december 2012, 10:02
Italy's indefatigable former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi appeared on television Tuesday for the third time in as many days to vow a return to political life, AFP reports.

"You need me, and I always help people in need," Berlusconi, 76, said in a lengthy interview with Rai Uno ahead of elections expected in February.

The scandal-plagued billionaire, who was prime minister three times over the past two decades, said that if Italy continued on its present course "we'll have three million unemployed, the government will have to raise taxes and we will find ourselves like Greece, on the brink of civil war".

The flamboyant former premier renewed criticism of austerity measures implemented by Mario Monti, a technocrat who replaced him in November 2011 following a parliamentary revolt and a wave of financial market panic.

"The situation has deteriorated with the politics of austerity," Berlusconi said on the evening talk show "Porta a Porta" hosted by a friend, Bruno Vespa.

Berlusconi, who announced his comeback bid earlier this month, said he did not think Italians were tired of him.

"We will prove it in the elections. I have received urgent calls to not let the situation deteriorate in the country I love," he said.

The media magnate, owner of three private television stations, boasted that his TV appearances had boosted his People of Freedom Party's standing by four percentage points, while admitting that there was "a long way to go".

The party's popularity has dipped to around 15 percent in opinion polls from nearly 38 percent when Berlusconi swept to power for a third time in 2008.

Centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani is tipped as the likely winner of the elections, possibly as early as February.

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