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Berlusconi campaigns for centre-right in regional Italian election

Ex-prime minister met Matteo Salvini in show of unity among rightwing parties in AbruzzoSilvio Berlusconi has returned to the campaign trail as his centre-right coalition is revived ahead of elections in the central Italian region of Abruzzo on Sunday.The former prime minister’s appearance at a press conference on Thursday was his first major campaign outing since March last year when the same alliance, made up of his Forza Italia and the two far-right parties, the League and Brothers of Italy, took 38% of the vote in general elections. Continue reading...

Silvio Berlusconi has returned to the campaign trail as his centre-right coalition is revived ahead of elections in the central Italian region of Abruzzo on Sunday.

The former prime minister’s appearance at a press conference on Thursday was his first major campaign outing since March last year when the same alliance, made up of his Forza Italia and the two far-right parties, the League and Brothers of Italy, took 38% of the vote in general elections.

The 82-year-old met Matteo Salvini, the leader of the League, and Georgia Meloni, who heads Brothers of Italy, in the regional capital of Pescara on Thursday to give a show of unity in a region that would be a strategic win for the group.

The alliance has put forward Marco Marsilio, a politician with Brothers of Italy, to compete in the regional vote, which is likely to lead to the ousting of the centre-left Democratic party. Recent polls put the centre-right in the lead, with about 39%, followed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) at 32.2% and a centre-left coalition at 28.2%.

Should Marsilio win, Berlusconi – who said he has always “been in love with Abruzzo” – has pledged to return to Pescara once a month for the first six months to assist him with a programme that includes investment in infrastructure and hospitals, and creating jobs to stop young people from leaving.

Berlusconi’s campaigning has included a return visit to L’Aquila, almost 10 years after over 300 people were killed and thousands left homeless by an earthquake. Berlusconi was prime minister at the time and kept a promise to build new homes for the displaced. “It was very emotional to go back there and to meet the people living in those homes,” he said.

If the coalition wins in Abruzzo, it would be a blow for M5S, which is governing nationally alongside the League. M5S won almost 40% of the vote in Abruzzo at the general election.

There had been speculation that Salvini, whose popularity has surged since becoming deputy prime minister and interior minister last June, might be tempted to ditch Forza Italia.

But Berlusconi, who has led Italy three times, said in an interview with Corriere della Sera on Wednesday that the League “has no vocation for suicide”.

“Relations with Salvini are always good, inspired by a mutual loyalty even when we disagree,” he added.

Berlusconi, who has made comebacks from a tax-fraud conviction, sex scandals and health woes, also announced in January that he would run as a candidate in the European elections. Forza Italia belongs to the European People’s party (EPP).

He said on Thursday that Europe must return to being a continent “that counts” and not one of “divided states”.

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