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Silvio Berlusconi charms supporters before Italy election


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Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi charmed a theatre full of supporters in Milan on Sunday, a week ahead of a parliamentary election at which his coalition is expected to win the most votes.

The 81-year-old spoke for more than two hours at a rally as around 1,000 fans cheered, clapped and waved the flag of his centre-right Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party.

‘You have a mandate to be missionaries of freedom and democracy this week,’ he said, smiling and showing little of the fatigue that has marked his recent appearances.

The coalition, which also includes the eurosceptic League and nationalist Brothers of Italy, is leading in the final polls ahead of the March 4 vote, although it looks likely to fall short of a working majority.

Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi rallied a theatre packed with supporters in Milan on Sunday

Berlusconi held the rally a week ahead of a parliamentary election at which his coalition is expected to win the most votes

Berlusconi held the rally a week ahead of a parliamentary election at which his coalition is expected to win the most votes

The 81-year-old was pictured greeting fans during the campaign event in Milan on Sunday 

The 81-year-old was pictured greeting fans during the campaign event in Milan on Sunday 

The rally was regarded as an unusual event in a campaign so far largely dedicated to TV talk shows.

‘We need to have protagonists of so-called real life in the cabinet,’ Berlusconi said. ‘Protagonists of business, management, the professions, culture.’

The four-time premier cracked a stream of jokes, even on the topic of joblessness, which remains sensitive in a country with one of the lowest employment rates in the euro zone.

He described having read a university study which he said showed that by 2040 technological developments would mean only half the currently employed workforce would be necessary.

‘We need to decide whether we all go to the park and look at other people’s babysitters, or if we create something new, which would be preferable,’ he said, to laughter from the crowd.

Support for Forza Italia has almost halved since 2001, but regained some ground in the last year and was ahead of its main coalition partner the League in most polls before a two-week blackout period kicked in.

Berlusconi is greeted by party colleague Mariastella Gelmini as they attend the pre-election gathering

Berlusconi is greeted by party colleague Mariastella Gelmini as they attend the pre-election gathering

Berlusconi gestures as he speaks at the rally, flanked by Attilio Fontana, mayor of Varese 

Berlusconi gestures as he speaks at the rally, flanked by Attilio Fontana, mayor of Varese 

Berlusconi is pictured during his election speech at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan on Sunday 

Berlusconi is pictured during his election speech at the Teatro Manzoni in Milan on Sunday 

Support for Forza Italia has almost halved since 2001, but regained some ground in the last year, according to opinion polls

Support for Forza Italia has almost halved since 2001, but regained some ground in the last year, according to opinion polls

Numerous legal cases, sex scandals, and a ban from office due to a 2013 tax fraud conviction have not reduced his personal appeal among die-hard fans.

‘He just gets better, he’s always so endearing,’ said Vincenza Mattiello, a 43 year-old school worker from near Naples, in southern Italy, who attended Sunday’s event with her son. ‘Even if we don’t see much of him, we believe in him.’

Berlusconi, who fell from power in 2011, has yet to formally announce who would be his prime minister candidate if Forza Italia gets more votes than its allies.

But he said on Sunday that the work of government should be undertaken by people with experience outside politics.

Berlusconi's centre-right coalition is leading in the final polls ahead of the March 4 vote but may fall short of a working majority 

Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition is leading in the final polls ahead of the March 4 vote but may fall short of a working majority 

Berlusconi has yet to formally announce who would be his prime minister candidate if Forza Italia gets more votes than its allies

Berlusconi has yet to formally announce who would be his prime minister candidate if Forza Italia gets more votes than its allies

The four-time premier cracked a stream of jokes, even on the topic of joblessness, which remains sensitive in a country with one of the lowest employment rates in the euro zone

The four-time premier cracked a stream of jokes, even on the topic of joblessness, which remains sensitive in a country with one of the lowest employment rates in the euro zone

Numerous legal cases, sex scandals, and a ban from office due to a 2013 tax fraud conviction have not reduced his personal appeal among die-hard fans 

Numerous legal cases, sex scandals, and a ban from office due to a 2013 tax fraud conviction have not reduced his personal appeal among die-hard fans 

The was regarded as an unusual event in a campaign so far largely dedicated to TV talk shows, such as a debate where Berlusconi appeared on Wednesday (pictured) 

The was regarded as an unusual event in a campaign so far largely dedicated to TV talk shows, such as a debate where Berlusconi appeared on Wednesday (pictured) 

A coalition plan to introduce a flat tax for individuals and firms – a suggestion Berlusconi made while in power but never realised – has been one of the most discussed of the campaign.

‘We need to have protagonists of so-called real life in the cabinet,’ he said. ‘Protagonists of business, management, the professions, culture.’ 

Such economic considerations are the main reason to vote Forza Italia, said Alberto Giovenco, a 34-year-old from Sicily who runs an agricultural company, and watched Sunday’s event on a screen in the lobby of the theatre when seats ran out.

‘If you cut taxes you can hire young people,’ Giovenco said. ‘Berlusconi is the only one who can really do something. He has experience, he’s a businessman.’ 

Berlusconi was Italy’s longest-serving post-war prime minister until a blaze of sleaze scandals and fears of a Greek-style financial collapse ended his stint in power in 2011.

Two years later he was forced out of parliament after his conviction for corporate tax fraud was upheld by Italy’s highest court and he was sentenced to seven years in jail for paying for sex with a 17-year-old prostitute, though that conviction was later overturned. 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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