Silvio Berlusconi Could Drop Plans to Run for Prime Minister in 2013

Silvio Berlusconi - Political Plans and Legal Charges
Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Italian media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has often been seen as the teflon media mogul - always facing legal and other charges, but never really facing consequences. In Oct. 2012 though, a court sentenced the head of media group Mediaset, whose stock has been dropping amid weak ad trends, to four years in prison in a tax evasion case - marking the first time he is facing time behind bars. And just before Christmas, prosecutors also called for a prison sentence of at least one year for Berlusconi on charges of publishing information about a political rival that was obtained illegally. The three-time prime minister, meanwhile, announced he would run for a fourth term in early 2013 after having left political office in late 2011.

The billionaire media tycoon's undeclared campaign to return to politics has yet to gain much traction among voters.

ROME – Italian billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi said he is ready to drop plans to run for a new term as prime minister for “the good for the country” he loves, and said he could instead throw his support behind Mario Monti, currently the head of a technocrat government.

Berlusconi, 75, earned headlines during the summer when he started working on plans to run for prime minister in 2013. The developments came just month after Berlusconi stepped down as prime minister, in November 2011, amid personal and legal troubles and fears that his leadership might lead Italy to fall victim to the European debt crisis.

Monti replaced Berlusconi as the had of a technocrat government and has since improved the country's economic situation, though his austerity efforts have been unpopular.

Berlusconi said he would stand in the elections in the place of Angelino Alfano, Berlusconi’s own hand-picked successor. The People of Liberty party began placing signs about a Berlusconi candidacy, but the idea never gained much traction. Instead, center-left parties -- the opposition during Berlusconi’s governments -- began rising in polls. Berlusconi’s willingness to endorse Monti would be designed to prevent center-left parties that might be hard on Berlusconi’s interests from gaining power.

“I have always wanted the good for the country I love, and I have never had any personal ambition,” Berlusconi said. Asked who would stand as the candidate for his party, Berlusconi added, “It could easily be Mario Monti.”

Though Monti is suffering his own drops in opinion polls, he remains popuar in the business community. But Monti has said he does not wish to stand as a candidate and would only continue as prime minister next year if elections fail to produce a majority on either side of the political spectrum able to form a strong coalition.

Meanwhile, Berlusconi’s political woes continue. Court cases alleging tax evasion and corruption regarding his Mediaset television and cinema giant continue, along with a case alleging abuse of power and paying an underage girl for sex.

Mediaset, which owns three national television networks and the Medusa cinema production and distribution house, is also struggling in the country’s moribund economy, with ad revenue and cinema attendance figures dropping.