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Berlusconi daughters won't stand even after ban upheld

Forza Italia protest leader's public-office bar

19 March, 18:35
Berlusconi daughters won't stand even after ban upheld (By Denis Greenan).

(ANSA) - Rome, March 19 - Silvio Berlusconi's daughters will not try to fill his shoes at the upcoming European elections but the most iconic and controversial name in Italian conservative politics will still be somewhere on the ticket despite the three-time premier and media magnate's ban from office on a tax-fraud conviction. Berlusconi's top advisor on Wednesday quashed speculation that one or both of his leader's daughters might stand in the European Parliament elections after the centre-right Forza Italia (FI) leader was barred.

"The family has always denied (this) and I have no knowledge of it," said Giovanni Toti, who is moving closer to the spotlight after leaving his post as a Berlusconi channel news chief and will himself be running in the May 22-25 elections.

On Tuesday Italy's supreme court upheld a two-year ban from office for the three-time premier, who was also barred from voting.

The Italian press and some FI members had suggested Berlusconi's elder daughter Marina, 47, a top executive at his media empire, or Barbara, 29, a CEO of his AC Milan soccer club, might run in his stead.

Charismatic conservative chief Berlusconi, 77, is leading the FI campaign from outside parliament, having been ejected from the Senate in November.

Earlier, former education minister Maria Stella Gelmini, FI Lower House deputy whip, became the latest Berlusconi backer to say Marina and Barbara could stand for the EP.

She told Radio Capital a decision will be taken in the next few days on whether Berlusconi's oldest daughter Marina and her half-sister Barbara will run.

"The choice will be made in the coming days if Barbara or Marina, or both, will choose to stand as candidates in a decision that would be taken to defend the path undertaken by Silvio Berlusconi", said Gelmini.

Silvio Berlusconi's slender hopes of standing were dashed after the Cassation Court upheld a two-year ban from office Tuesday.

The FI leader was ejected from parliament under a separate six-year ban on office incurred by a 2012 anti-corruption law that kicked in after the supreme court upheld the conviction for tax-fraud at his media empire.

In two separate cases, Berlusconi is appealing a conviction for sex with an underage prostitute and abuse of office that carried a life office ban; and a one-year term for the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap against a leftwing leader.

He is also on trial for allegedly bribing a centre-left Senator to switch sides.

Despite these woes, which Berlusconi blames on systematic persecution by allegedly leftwing magistrates, his supporters continued to proclaim their outrage at his being prevented from leading them into battle in May.

Toti said it was "impossible" for Berlusconi to find any justice but he would not give up.

"It is impossible for Silvio Berlusconi to get justice," he complained.

But Berlusconi "will remain in the field," Toti said, insisting that the former premier's name would be "rightly" splashed all over the FI electoral banners and ads. Forza Italia Senate whip Paolo Romani said it is "unimaginable for such a figure not to be able to run in European elections".

Romani said Berlusconi was a "protagonist in the country's reform process , a role recognized and given to him" by the center-left Democratic Party of Premier Matteo Renzi.

Renzi is vying to solidify his reputation as an effective reformer able to steer Italy away from political deadlock, partly with a landmark election reform he has negotiated with Berlusconi.

Romani also said Berlusconi's name would feature in the Forza Italia logo on electoral lists and campaign posters.

"We can write what we want on our symbol and we mean to identify Forza Italia with Premier Berlusconi", Romani said.