Silvio Berlusconi is back. Again. The three-time Italian premier, who has made a career out of rebounding from legal woes, personal scandal, heart trouble and political setbacks, announced late Thursday he is running for the European Parliament in May elections. The 82-year-old Berlusconi said he wanted to "bring my voice to a Europe that should change, a Europe that has lost profound thinking about the world."
Berlusconi had been barred from running for public office for nearly five years due to a tax fraud conviction. Citing his good conduct, a court last year ruled that he could once again run.
Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, which dominated Italian politics for a quarter-century, is now polling in single digits behind the two parties in Western Europe's first populist government, the League and the anti-establishment 5-Stars. He announced his campaign on the same day Italy's government unveiled details of how it intends to fulfill two campaign promises made by the coalition parties: providing a basic income to needy Italians looking for work and reforming unpopular pension regulations.
At a press conference in Rome, Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio proudly announced the government had "founded a new welfare state in Italy...a revolution in the world of work."
Media mogul Berlusconi stressed in his first campaign remarks that he wanted to see a united center-right in Europe.
"A center-right that is united and victorious, with its values and ideals, is the future of Italy, Europe and the world," Berlusconi said in Sardinia, where he keeps a huge estate.
Because a 2012 law stipulated that anyone sentenced to more than two years in prison was ineligible to hold or run for public office for six years, Berlusconi had to relinquish his Senate seat.
Berlusconi referred to his advanced age in kicking off his European Parliament campaign, but framed it as a benefit of an elder statesman merely seeking to defend European values against global powers such as China.