[credit provider=”AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia”]
Italy’s indefatigable former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has appeared on television for the third time in as many days, saying that Italy needed him to return.”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 per cent in opinion polls from nearly 38 per cent 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.
In an interview on Sunday, Mr Berlusconi lashed out at the Milan trial where he is fighting charges that he paid for sex with an under age prostitute, the then 17-year-old exotic dancer, Karima El-Mahroug, better known as “Ruby the Heart Stealer”.
Mr Berlusconi and she have denied the charges.
Asked about the so-called ‘bunga bunga’ parties, he said: “It was a time when I felt very lonely. I had just got divorced, my sister had died.
“Then someone said: ‘Why don’t we organise some soirées?’ I was tricked.”