Berlusconi says his children won't replace him in EU polls

AFP , Saturday 22 Mar 2014

Italy's former prime minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday dismissed rumours that one of his children would fly his party's colours in the European Union's May elections.

"Those are all inventions," Berlusconi, 77, told activists of Forza Italia, the party he founded 20 years ago. "My children will not be candidates."

He was speaking at the first assembly of so-called "Forza Silvio" clubs launched last November to stimulate grassroots support for the centre-right opposition party.

It was the former premier's first public appearance since the Italian supreme court on Tuesday upheld a two-year ban from public office imposed as part of a tax fraud conviction against him.

The ban also blocks Berlusconi from running in elections.

The flamboyant billionaire was sentenced last year to four years in prison for the fraud linked to his Mediaset business empire, with an automatic reduction to one year under a 2006 amnesty law aimed at reducing prison overcrowding.

Berlusconi, who was also stripped of his seat in the Senate over the case, is expected to serve the term through community service due to his age.

With its longtime leader out of commission, Forza Italia was rumoured to be turning to other Berlusconis -- daughters Barbara, 29, or Marina, 47, or son Pier Silvio, 44 -- to head its lists in the May 22-25 EU-wide elections.

Firstborn Marina heads the family's holding company Fininvest, while Barbara, the eldest child from Berlusconi's second marriage, is a Fininvest board member and vice president of his AC Milan football club.

Pier Silvio is a vice president of Mediaset, which owns Italy's three main private television networks.

The most recent voter surveys credit Forza Italia with 24 percent support, trailing the centre-left Democratic Party of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi with 31 percent.

The New Centre Right party made up of former Berlusconi backers is far behind with just 3.7 percent.

Berlusconi has two other children, Eleonora and Luigi, from his second marriage.

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