September 15, 2012 / 4:53 PM / in 8 years

Berlusconi says comeback will depend on electoral law

ROME (Reuters) - Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is waiting to see how a new electoral law shapes up before deciding whether to run in national elections in spring, he said on Saturday.

Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (L) waves as he arrives for a meeting of the European People's Party (EPP), ahead of a two-day European Union leaders summit, in Brussels June 28, 2012. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet

Berlusconi has kept Italy guessing over whether he plans to attempt a political comeback. On Friday he disappointed supporters when he failed to turn up for a major youth rally where some had hoped he would finally announce his candidacy.

Speaking to reporters in Venice where he was preparing to board a cruise ship, the 75-year-old media magnate said his decision would depend on “the conditions that emerge, and what the electoral law will be.”

Italy’s politicians have been arguing for months about how to replace a voting law that is generally referred to as “the pigsty”, adding to uncertainty over the political future.

Berlusconi was forced to step down in November and hand power to respected economist Mario Monti when the euro zone debt crisis pushed Italy close to a Greek-style meltdown.

He has kept a low profile since then but, some media reports say, is unhappy out of the limelight. The fortunes of his People of Freedom (PDL) party have slumped, under assault from populist forces that have exploited widespread disgust with politicians.

The billionaire, who is still embroiled in sex and financial scandals, on Saturday reiterated his long-held view that Italy needs constitutional reform to strengthen the powers of the executive.

He said it required a leader “who can intervene, through changes to the constitution, to make the country governable”.

Berlusconi criticised the economic policies of Monti’s government, which has introduced an austerity programme to help shore up public finances and rein in Italy’s huge debt, but is now grappling with a deep and prolonged recession.

He said the country needed a leader that “would not continue these policies that are pushing us irreversibly into recession.”

Uncertainty about what will follow Monti’s government is worrying investors, who fear a new government of elected politicians will tear up the painful reforms that have restored Italy’s credibility under Monti.

Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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