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02/12/2013

The return of Silvio Berlusconi?

Berlusconi
Italy's former Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi delivers a speech during a rally of his party "Popolo della liberta" (People of the Freedom - PDL) in Rome, on Feb. 7.(Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

Will Italian voters return former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – one of Italy’s richest men and king of the so-called bunga bunga – to office?

Italians go to the polls on Feb. 24 and 25 in what is being billed as the anti-austerity general election. Italy has been in a recession since 2011 and is expected to stay in it throughout 2013.

Berlusconi, an enigmatic speaker and media tycoon, is promising big tax breaks and jobs to Italians if he is returned to office. The Italian unemployment rate is just above 11 per cent but far worse for youth at nearly 36 per cent.

Berlusconi’s main competition is Pierluigi Bersani’s Democratic Party.

Nothing seems to keep Berlusconi, 76, down. The centre-right politician governed Italy until 2011 but he never left the spotlight. He's been embroiled in a myriad of legal cases and allegations of tax evasion.

The Italian courts have recently put off Berlusconi’s trial for allegedly having sex with an underage dancer, until after the election. Berlusconi's political accomplishments have been overshadowed, for years, due to his notorious so-called bunga-bunga sex parties.

The latest poll conducted for the Corriere della Sera newspaper by ISPO indicates the race is getting close – Pierluigi’s party has 37.2 per cent support compared to Berlusconi’s 29.7 per cent.

“I have nothing to ask for myself. I want to fight one last great electoral and political battle," Berlusconi said.

With files from Reuters

Tanya Talaga is the Star’s Global Economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga

 

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