New party, same old Silvio – Berlusconi hints at return

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The Independent Online

Silvio Berlusconi is to rename his centre-right People of Freedom (PDL) party with its original name Forza Italia, or Go Italy, adding to signs that the former Italian Prime Minister is planning a return to frontline politics.

But the 75-year-old media tycoon did not confirm that he would stand as candidate for Prime Minister in elections next year. "I am often and insistently asked to do this," he told Germany's Bild daily. "I can only say this much, I will never let my People of Freedom party down. Incidentally, we are soon going back to the old party name, Forza Italia."

Forza Italia, the political party Mr Berlusconi created when he became Prime Minister in 1994, was merged with other conservative groups to become the PDL in 2008, but he has often talked of reverting to the original name.

Mr Berlusconi, who still faces trial over accusations he paid for sex with a teenager, has kept a relatively low profile since he was forced from office last year in the middle of a financial crisis that threatened to force Italy to default on its €1.9 trillion (£1.5trn) debt.

In the interview, Mr Berlusconi, who has frequently criticised the austerity policies followed by Prime Minister Mario Monti, said he had a good relationship with Germany but was against "exaggeratedly strict budget rigour" because it hampered progress.