Silvio Berlusconi's Son Supports Political Rival


ROME — Matteo Renzi, Italy's young and charismatic prime minister, has a new high-profile supporter in Pier Silvio Berlusconi, the vice-chairman of Italian television and cinema giant Mediaset ... and the eldest son of Silvio Berlusconi, three-time Italian prime minister and one of the leaders of Renzi's political opposition.

Renzi "is the best communicator since my father," the younger Berlusconi said Wednesday, adding that he was "cheering for" Renzi's ambitious reform agenda.

The 39-year-old Renzi, who became prime minister in February, has so far taken aim at the country's burdensome tax system and has vowed to streamline the justice system and local governments. He wants to change labor laws in order to encourage economic growth. With Italy taking over the rotating presidency of the European Union as of Tuesday, Renzi has promised to make the EU's tough economic austerity policies more flexible and to force other EU countries to share the cost of immigration.

Many of the reforms Renzi is pushing for will undo policies put in place while Silvio Berlusconi was prime minister. But Berlusconi's son says he is looking beyond that.

"The crisis we are going through has lasted too long," the 45-year-old said. "There isn't a minute to waste. As an Italian businessman, I am cheering for immediate reforms, and I applaud the government's drive to move quickly. Renzi has a unique chance and a great responsibility."

The younger Berlusconi added he could envision seeing Renzi "dominating" Italian politics for 20 years or more — about the same length of time his billionaire media tycoon father did.

The elder Berlusconi, who remains the leader of one of two main opposition parties, is banned from politics and is serving a year of community service in Milan after being found guilty of corruption and tax evasion in connection with content acquisition deals for Mediaset. He has not commented on his son's remarks.

Twitter: @EricJLyman

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