Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has confirmed he will not lead his People of Freedom (PDL) party in next year's election, ending months of speculation about his political future.
ROME, ITALY (DECEMBER 13, 2010) (REUTERS) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's announcement that he would not lead his People of Freedom (PDL) party in next year's election was supported by many Italians on Thursday (October 24), with the decision ending months of speculation about his political future.
The 76-year-old media magnate said this month he might not stand if withdrawing his candidacy could help centrist and centre-right parties come together to form a "moderate" bloc.
But in a statement on Wednesday he suggested that his career in frontline politics that began in 1994 may be coming to an end.
"I will not stand for premier again but I remain at the side of younger people who can play and score goals," said the owner of AC Milan football club, who quit as prime minister in November last year during a mounting financial crisis.
The announcement dominated front pages across Italy's press, with headlines ranging from "Bye-bye" in one, to "The Berlusconi surrender: I'll run no more" on the front of a left-leaning paper.
On the streets of Rome, most were pleased with their former leader's decision.
"This will definitely mark a change, an unavoidable change. I think he had lived his (political) history to the end," added Ferri.
Given Berlusconi's long record of surprises and turnarounds, his statement may still not be the final word, but it was widely welcomed by senior figures in the PDL and the general public.
Berlusconi's departure may also make it easier for the PDL to form an alliance with centrist forces which have been deeply suspicious of the former premier as well as others such as its estranged former partners in the pro-devolution Northern League.
But for some Romans Berlusconi's handover to Mario Monti still stings.
"I think that it is a bad thing for Italy that Berlusconi will not run for the next elections. We are suffering now Monti's dictatorship. I am a working man, a tradesman; I have seen policies devoid of any sign of growth. I think Berlusconi has been blackmailed on his business activities and forced to quit," saidGiuseppe Luca.
The flamboyant Berlusconi, whose reported "bunga bunga" parties won worldwide notoriety, has taken a largely backseat role in politics since he was forced to step down, but he remains the dominant figure within the PDL.
However, his standing with the general public has fallen sharply after an array of sexual and political scandals and an opinion poll last month gave him just 18 percent support. One of his trials involving "Ruby" still draws massive media interest when Berlusconi appears in court to deny he ever paid for sex with an underage prostitute.
The political situation remains exceptionally confused, with the main parties unable to agree even on an electoral law that will govern next year's ballot, but opinion polls suggest the centre-right will struggle.
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