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Berlusconi vows to fight on

Former premier, stripped of Senate seat, promises 'liberal' govt

30 December, 19:18
Berlusconi vows to fight on (ANSA) - Turin, December 30 - Former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who earlier this year was sentenced to a four-year jail term and stripped of his parliament seat, on Monday said he would continue to fight for his political goals through his resurrected Forza Italia (FI) party. "I am an old man, I cannot permit myself to end my human adventure, my history as a businessman, of a sportsman, of a statesman, as a loser", Berlusconi said in a telephone call to the Turin chapter of Forza Italia. "This is why I am throwing myself" into this, "with all the energy of which I am still able to give my country a liberal government that guarantees all the rights that today are not guaranteed".

The Italian Supreme Court of Cassation upheld a four-year prison sentence against the three-time premier - three years of which have been commuted because of an amnesty - for his first definitive conviction after two decades of legal battles earlier this year. Since then, the Senate stripped Berlusconi of his Senate seat on the basis of a 2012 anti-corruption law and the three-time premier switched to opposing Democratic Party (PD) Premier Enrico Letta's right-left government. The government is backed by the PD, which has just elected charismatic young Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi as leader, and the New Centre Right (NCD), a small splinter group that broke with Berlusconi over a bid to sink Letta but which will be an ally of the ex-premier's at the next general election. Berlusconi has always maintained he is the victim of persecution from left-wing elements in the judiciary who allegedly want to wipe him from the political arena and is appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.

The next general election is expected to come down to a fight between Renzi and Berlusconi, a billionaire whose business empire includes Italy's three biggest commercial TV channels, its largest publishing group, and the AC Milan soccer club.