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Berlusconi welcomes back Casini into centre right

UDC leader broke off alliance with ex-premier in 2006

03 February, 15:43
Berlusconi welcomes back Casini into centre right (ANSA) - Rome, February 3 - Silvio Berlusconi on Monday welcomed the announcement by Pier Ferdinando Casini that he intends to ally his small centrist UDC party with the ex-premier's Forza Italia at the next Italian election.

Former House Speaker Casini was allied with Berlusconi from when the billionaire media magnate embarked on a political career two decades ago until the end of the second and longest-lasting of Berlusconi's three governments, in 2006.

Casini, a former member of the Christian Democrat party that dominated Italian politics after World War II until it collapsed amid corruption scandals in the early 1990s, has frequently been highly critical of Berlusconi since.

But the breakdown of the UDC's alliance with the centrist Civil Choice party of ex-premier Mario Monti after a poor showing at last year's general election and the likely arrival of a new election law has forced Casini back into the centre-right fold.

The new election law plan threatens to see the UDC excluded from parliament if it does not join an alliance, as the entry threshold will be 8% for parties that run alone, compared to 4.5% for those in a coalition.

Matteo Renzi, the new leader of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) who framed the new election law plan with Berlusconi, had been cool about the idea of being allied with the UDC when Italy returns to the polls.

Casini's announcement that he was returning to the centre right was met with stiff criticism from some members of Berlusconi's Forza Italia (FI) party.

But Berlusconi said Monday he did not share these judgements.

"I've always wanted him to return to the area of the moderates and I can only be happy about it, as I believe his movement can offer a real contribution to the centre right's victory," Berlusconi said in a statement.