Italy’s conservative party leader, Silvio Berlusconi, has announced a new deal with the separatist Northern League, his coalition partner in previous right-wing governments.
The septuagenarian former media tycoon, who is leading Il Popolo della Libertà into February’s election, did not give many details in a radio interview but said he would be the “leader of moderates” in a center-right alliance.
He said he wasn’t sure if he would return as premier: “We will decide if we win.”
Quid pro quo
Under the terms of the agreement, Berlusconi’s party will support the candidacy of Northern League leader Roberto Maroni for the regional presidency of Lombardy.
The League seeks enhanced autonomy and ultimately independence for the wealthier northern parts of the country.
“I think it’s completely insane and suicidal for the League to go it alone,” Berlusconi said in a television interview before the alliance was sealed.
If the coalition on the right is broken, he warned, the regional governments in Piedmont and Veneto could go to the left.
In those provinces, right-wing parties currently command majorities in the regional legislatures.
Berlusconi’s alliance with the Northern League could pull in 28 percent of the vote, according to recent polls.
On its own, the former prime minister’s party would get between 17 and 19 percent support.
Left-wing leader Pier Luigi Bersani is still likely to prevail. His Democratic Party could get up to a third of the votes. The left as a whole is at 39 percent support.
That may be enough to secure a majority in the lower chamber but probably not the Senate. The centrist parties that support Mario Monti, the outgoing prime minister, could become kingmakers in the upper chamber.