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Berlusconi prepares to enter the battle of the Quirinal

Berlusconi addressed the media, the past December 23 in Rome. LaPresse / Roberto Monaldo (AP)

That Silvio Berlusconi, the omnipresent man in Italian politics in recent decades, dreams of ending his career as President of the Republic It is no secret in the transalpine country. Nor is it new, he has already fantasized on other occasions with the head of state. But this time, with Sergio Mattarella's term nearing completion, he sees himself with options and has already subtly uncovered his cards and has set in motion the machinery to gather support, although officially he has limited himself to saying that he will decide at the beginning of the year if he presents his candidacy.

At the moment there are no official candidates, but the current Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, proposed by several political exponents, he has slipped that he would be available for the position.

Berlusconi, 85 years old and three times first Minister of Italy, has been quick to rule out a possible and strange duel with a rival of the stature and prestige of the former president of the European Central Bank. “Draghi is better where he is, this government is a great success and must continue like this until the end of the legislature,” he has dropped. The octogenarian magnate is convinced that he has a real chance, something few maintain, to reach the Quirinal Palace, seat of the Presidency of the Republic. And his center-right allies allow him to keep dreaming by whispering loyalty to him. A few days ago, he received leading figures from the right-wing coalition of which he is also part of his Roman villa to address the issue of the election of the head of state and offer an image of unity.

The ritual usually works in reverse, it is the parties that present their candidates, for whom Parliament then votes. Spontaneous applications are not frequent. In addition, history says that the first names that sound end up discarded. But Berlusconi, the man who always comes back, to the amazement of those who have left him for politically dead on dozens of occasions, has shown that he is a constant challenge to the status quo .

His path to the Quirinal is full of obstacles. The owner of Mediaset has been stained for years by the stigma of corruption and judicial storms. In fact, the votes for the presidency of the Republic will coincide with the holding of a hearing of the process that tries to elucidate whether he bought witnesses in a previous trial in which he was accused of inciting the prostitution of minors and in which he was acquitted on appeal. It is one of the several legal cases that came out of the famous nights of the “bunga bunga”, what the politician and magnate defined as “elegant dinners.”

Neither do they fit with the classic profile of the head of State, more neutral and diplomatic, the constant and well-known outings of the old man Cavaliere and the grotesque style that he has always maintained. Like his habit of defining former US President Barack Obama as “handsome and tanned” or his style taunts: “It's better to be passionate about beautiful women than to be gay.”

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“Regarding your image, your choice for Italy would be a disaster. You need another profile, you need someone that the European Union recognizes as trustworthy, expert, competent, ”political scientist Piero Ignazi told this newspaper. “He has always been a prey to megalomania, this movement does not surprise me now,” he adds.

The expert does not see no chance in this bid. “It does not exist, it is a pressure maneuver by the center-right to try to have more voice in the elections and bargaining power,” he says. And he points out: “The right does not have relevant personalities to present for a position such as that of the presidency of the Republic, neither within the political parties that make up the coalition nor outside of them.”

Ignazi opts for Draghi: “For seven years we would ensure the presence of a relevant personality, of great competence and great international recognition, of secure democratic faith, who They are essential requirements for a President of the Republic. Few meet these conditions like him. ”

The expert also points out the key role that the Italian head of state has assumed in recent years, as an arbiter of politics and when guiding government formations. “It is no longer something symbolic as it was long ago, it has acquired a fundamental role in recent decades, that is why electing the president is much more important than in the past.”

In general, analysts maintain that the election of Berlusconi to lead the highest institution of the Italian State is highly unlikely given his controversial political, business and judicial trajectory, which does not make him a consensus figure with options to receive the required votes, two thirds of Parliament or an absolute majority from the third vote.

Gianfranco Rotondi, a classic of the Christian Democracy and minister in the third and last government of Berlusconi (between 2008 and 2011) is, on the other hand, optimistic with the candidacy of the former prime minister. In an interview in Il Corriere della Sera , the politician has pointed to the sympathies that the tycoon between the ranks of the center-left. “That of Berlusconi and the Italian left is a story of unknown, but deep relationships,” he has slipped. And he has specified: “There are deputies of the Democratic Party who tell me: 'One like Gentiloni doesn't even answer me on the phone. As a member of parliament in the opposition, when I called Berlusconi, he not only answered me, but in three days he solved a problem in my constituency. ”

He also believes that the dynamics of political games to elect the head of state may favor Berlusconi. “The Quirinal elections are like the votes of the president of the people's bank. Some vote for the pharmacist because he is always available, while others choose the local doctor because they consider him a friend. They are choices that are won through relationships, a field in which Il Cavaliere is unbeatable. ”

For now, Berlusconi has already started his campaign to attract support, in his own way and also more beyond the friendly ranks. The magnate has sent to various parliamentarians, ministers, party leaders and also to some businessmen dozens of paintings from his imposing art collection, which he keeps in the gallery of his villa San Martino. They are more than innocent Christmas gifts that coincide, in addition to the election of the head of state, with the 50th anniversary of the ex-president's art gallery, which includes hundreds of pieces, some of great value, such as a Titian valued at five million euros.

Its intention is to reinforce existing political relations and consolidate those that are still in the nascent phase, that is why Among the recipients are not only the leaders of the center-right, such as Matteo Salvini, Giorgia Meloni or Antonio Tajani, but also exponents of other parties, such as the Foreign Minister and former political head of the 5-Star Movement (M5S), Luigi Di Maio.

In his latest speeches, Berlusconi has become ecumenical and has embraced causes that he had once scorned, such as income of citizenship, historic workhorse of the M5S. He is seeking to show the profile of a statesman, of the father of the country, convinced that his ascent to the Quirinal would give peace of mind to parliamentarians who fear that Draghi's departure from the grand coalition government could unleash political chaos and lead the country to early elections. .

In addition, as part of a calculated image strategy, Berlusconi has multiplied its presence on social networks. His latest appearances have been to congratulate his followers on Christmas in the style of the royal houses, with a video next to the gigantic tree with his dog Gilda in his arms and with a photo with his partner, Congresswoman Marta Fascina.

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