Berlusconi steps back into arena


Silvio Berlusconi says he will go back to being a full-time politician — and just a part-time media tycoon — in the wake of his decision to found a new political party.

The three-time Prime Minister is the largest shareholder for Italian television and cinema giant Mediaset.

Less than 18 months after being narrowly voted out of office, Berlusconi announced he would dissolve the Forza Italia (Let's Go Italy) party he created in 1993 in favor of a new umbrella party called the Partito del Popolo Italiano (The Party of the Italian People). Berlusconi said the new party will help unseat Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Berlusconi's chief rival in elections next year.

The party was officially launched Monday and immediately attracted criticism from Berlusconi's former allies, most of whom rejected calls to join the new organization.

"I have yet to understand whether this is a new party or a re-branding of Forza Italia, but, either way, we are not interested," said Gianfranco Fini, the leader for the right-wing party Allianza Nazionale (National Alliance).

Mediaset, meanwhile, will be run to a greater degree by Berlusconi's son, Pier Silvio, who has officially been at the company's helm for nearly two years — albeit with frequent guidance from his father.

Investors reacted negatively to the news Monday, sending Mediaset shares nearly 3% lower to close at €6.65 ($9.71) in heavy trading. The shares have lost nearly a third of their value so far this year.