Italian Berlusconi abandons his presidential candidacy | Port Macquarie News

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Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has withdrawn from the country’s presidential election scheduled for next week, saying he had the votes to win but the nation could not afford political divisions during the pandemic. Berlusconi also announced that he, along with his allies from a centre-right bloc, opposes any candidacy for the presidency of Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Draghi, the former head of the European central bank, now leads a pandemic unity government with broad political support. Together, Berlusconi, Anti-Migrant League leader Matteo Salvini and nationalist Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni could command some 400 of the 1,009 voters who are expected to start voting Monday for Italy’s next president. Voters in the lower house of the Italian parliament, the Senate and special regional representatives are responsible for choosing a personality who could unite the country. Berlusconi, 85, who founded the center-right Forza Italia party three decades ago and served as prime minister three times, has long been a lightning rod for protests. His past includes a conviction for tax evasion and a host of sex scandals linked to ‘bunga bunga parties’, while his business empire which includes three private television stations has raised conflict of interest concerns. He has spent weeks probing his own conservative allies as well as lawmakers from centrist forces to see if he has enough support to add Italy’s top job to his political resume. In renouncing his candidacy for the presidency, Berlusconi said he had confirmed that he would have had enough support to be elected to a seven-year term as president. He said he was “honored and moved” but did not want to be the cause of “controversies or lacerations” in a nation still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic. With his characteristic lack of modesty, Berlusconi added that the presidency “represents the unity of the nation, of the country that I love and in whose service I have put myself for 30 years, with all my energies, my abilities, my competence .” by Berlusconi as a danger to the nation. “We said it clearly – Berlusconi’s candidacy was unacceptable,” Conte tweeted. “With his removal, we can take a step forward and begin a serious comparison between political forces to provide the country with a prominent, authoritative, widely shared personality.” The mandate of the current president, Sergio Mattarella, expires on February 3. Australian Associated Press

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