• Some Italian commentators believe Berlusconi would wangle his way to the PM post if his coalition wins despite his comments (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Berlusconi: Italy's next finance minister?

08.01.13 @ 09:29

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - Italy's former leader, Silvio Berlusconi, will join forces with the Northern League party in next month's elections, but does not want to be Prime Minister again.

Speaking on Italian radio on Monday (7 January), he said the new alliance was clinched in talks in the small hours of the morning.

He used the Latin phrase "Habeas Papam," or "We have a Pope," in reference to Vatican election customs, but added that if the coalition wins, he will put forward his PDL party's secretary, Angelino Alfano, for the country's top job.

"Alfano could be our candidate for Prime Minister and I could be the finance minister ... which would allow me to demonstrate once again that I have no political ambitions, that I don't consider politics as something that brings me any advantages," he said.

He also attacked Mario Monti, the country's technocrat caretaker leader, for his "immoral" decision to run in the vote despite previous promises.

"When he [Monti] was made Prime Minister he said - and he told me this, too - that once his mandate had expired, he would no longer be a political player," Berlusconi said.

For his part, Roberto Maroni, the Northern League chief, also told media that Monday's coalition agreement "says explicitly that the candidate for Prime Minister will not be Silvio Berlusconi."

According to an Ipso poll out on Sunday, the disgraced former leader (a convicted fraudster who still faces charges of paying for sex with a minor) and the league (an anti-immigrant party which wants financial autonomy for Italy's richer northern regions) could get 28 percent of the vote.

The centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) and its SEL party ally are tipped to win with up to 39 percent.

But a strong result for PDL-Northern-League in the senate might force PD to team up with Monti's centre-right coalition (set to gain up to 19 percent) in order to get laws through parliament, in a deal which could see Monti reinstalled as PM.

Meanwhile, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo is predicted to get 14 percent.

With Berlusconi previously vowing to roll back Monti-era austerity measures, such as a new property tax, Monday's announcement caused a setback for Italian bonds.

Yields on Italy's 10-year papers rose by 0.03 percent to 4.25 percent, even as some EU leaders voiced optimism that the sovereign debt crisis is over.

"I think we can say that the existential threat against the euro has essentially been overcome ... In 2013 the question won't be if the euro will, or will not, implode," European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso told press in Lisbon on Monday.