Berlusconi aides vow after his death to reinvigorate political party he created, fight his battles

The top official in former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party has vowed to reinvigorate the political party created by the late media mogul

Frances d'Emilio
Friday 16 June 2023 15:21 BST
Italy Berlusconi's Party
Italy Berlusconi's Party (LaPresse)

Officials of the political party founded three decades ago by the late former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi vowed Friday to breathe new life into his creation and pursue battles dear to him, including overhauling the justice system he insisted was biased against him.

"This is his creature, and this is and always will be the party of Silvio Berlusconi,'' said Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani, who is now the Forza Italia party's top official in his role as party coordinator.

Tajani told reporters that he and other Forza Italia stalwarts will keep waging Berlusconi’s cherished battles for lower taxes, higher minimum pensions and reforms of the justice system.

To ensure Forza Italia's longevity, the party plans to hold rallies to attract new members. Some of the reinvigoration efforts will center on what would have been Berlusconi's 87th birthday on Sept. 29.

Berlusconi died Monday in a Milan hospital where he was being treated for chronic leukemia, an illness for which he was hospitalized for weeks earlier in the year.

The former three-time premier left no designated political heir. Tajani said the symbol for the party, which Berlusconi christened with the name of a soccer cheer when he founded it in 1994, would keep the billionaire media mogul's name.

The party, which was dominant in its first decade or so, rapidly lost popularity with voters in recent years. Currently it is a junior partner in the 8-month-old coalition led by far-right Premier Giorgia Meloni. Her government also includes the right-wing League, an anti-migrant party led by Matteo Salvini.

Whether Forza Italia can hold on to what's left of its conservative base — and its lawmakers — is unclear. Some lawmakers might be tempted to join Meloni's Brothers of Italy party, which has been riding high in opinion polls, or bolt to some small centrist groupings in Parliament.

Much of the efforts to shore up Forza Party will focus on campaigning for next year's European Parliament election. In that legislature, Forza Italia has been a key component of the European People's Party.

Next week, Forza Italia's national council will meet to elect an interim president to lead the party until a party congress is held next year.

"Our guidelines are those that Berlusconi considered priorities,'' Tajani said, vowing to carry the party's mission forward.

On Thursday evening, Justice Minister Carlo Nordio presented the government's draft bill to overhaul the justice system, saying it was “destiny” that the Cabinet approved the proposed legislation just a day after Berlusconi's funeral.

Berlusconi had long railed against what he contended were left-leaning prosecutors, who brought dozens of criminal cases against him. Only one charge definitively stuck, a tax fraud conviction stemming from the sale of film rights in Berlusconi's media empire.

Among the proposed reforms are ones which would greatly limit journalists' ability to quote from wiretapped conversations that are part of criminal investigations and eliminate the crime of abuse of office by officials.

Opposition leaders fear abolishing that crime could facilitate corruption stemming from awarding public works contracts.

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