Alfano calls for Berlusconi's party to hold premier primary
Centre-right leader expected to be stripped of Senate seat04 November, 12:19
The People of Freedom (PdL) party was set to hold primaries before February's general election but it called them off when three-time premier Berlusconi opted to come out of political retirement and lead the campaign.
Berlusconi is expected to be ejected from parliament this month after a tax-fraud conviction against him was upheld by the supreme court. The 77-year-old has said he will continue to lead his party and be "personally committed" in a future election campaign, although the tax-fraud conviction will probably make him ineligible to stand as a candidate.
"My mind has not changed since the end of 2012, when we launched the primaries," said Alfano in excerpts of an interview contained in a book by broadcast journalist Bruno Vespa that is set to be published this week.
"At the next elections, our candidate should be chosen via primaries that are as open as possible, with the participation of the highest number of supporters possible".
Alfano is the leader of pro-government doves within the PdL who have clashed with Berlusconi and his loyalists over whether to bring down Premier Enrico Letta's grand-coalition government.
The doves forced Berlusconi to back down on a bid to scupper the left-right administration last month with a mutiny that ended with the ex-premier making an embarrassing U-turn and opting to back a confidence motion in it to avoid the party breaking up.
The party is still in danger of splitting, although the hawks and doves are trying to patch over their differences.
Alfano was stripped of his role as PdL secretary after Berlusconi recently announced he was launching a new party under the PdL's former name, Forza Italia.