Relief for Italy as Berlusconi refuses to seek a new term

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Silvio Berlusconi
Rome, Jul 8: It must have come as a big respite to a major section of Italy's population when Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced that he would not seek a new term once his current tenure at the office ends. Berlusconi, who is in the midst of a legal tangle with allegations of corruption and of paying for sex with an underaged prostitute, has nominated Justice Minister Angelino Alfano as his successor to lead the centre right into the next election due in 2013.

In an interview with the daily La Repubblica, to the question on whether he would stand again, Berlusconi replied, "Absolutely not. The candidate for premier on the centre right will be Alfano. If I could, I would give it up now."

The declaration comes as another one in a string of such remarks by the Italian Prime Minister and has already announced Alfano as secretary-general of the ruling People of Freedom party, as his successor.

Further in the interview he adds, "I will campaign and I will help Angelino. I will act as 'patron'. I will try to build the EPP (European People's Party) in Italy. But at 77 years of age, I can't be prime minister."

Berlusconi has also ruled out any efforts to become the President of Italy and said that the post should go to Gianni Letta, his chief of staff and most trusted aide.

The Prime Minister also dismissed fears that allies would reject Alfano as the new leader of the centre right and said, "Why not, I've already spoken about it. I think everyone agrees."

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