Berlusconi’s daughter Italy’s next prime minister?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

LONDON - Italy faces the possibility of a dynastic succession as supports grows for the millionaire daughter of Silvio Berlusconi to replace the beleaguered prime minister, a media report said here Sunday.

In a move which would delight Berlusconi’s supporters, Marina Berlusconi is being mooted as his successor as a prostitution scandal threatens to bring his third term in office to a premature end, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Members of the prime minister’s People of Freedom (PDL) party have backed the idea of his daughter becoming a candidate at the next elections, a scenario which would invite comparisons with the Bush and Kennedy dynasties in the US.

With Berlusconi holding on to power with only the slimmest of majorities, and accused of having sex with an underage prostitute and then abusing his powers to try to conceal the crime, it is increasingly likely that Italy will go to the polls well before his mandate expires in 2013.

Marina, 44, who is known for her love of short skirts and high heels, is already being groomed to take over her father’s multi-billion pound business empire. The eldest of his five children, she heads his Fininvest holding company as well as Mondadori, his publishing empire.

Now she is believed to be contemplating a move into politics, the report said.

She already has the wealth and the connections — in the current Forbes list of the world’s 100 most powerful women, she is ranked 48, ahead of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Jordan’s Queen Rania.

The suggestion that Marina might exchange the board room for parliament was greeted with enthusiasm by party faithful last week.

She would be “a huge asset to Italy”, said Michaela Biancofiore, an MP in Berlusconi’s party. “She is an emblem of our country, who’s recognised around the world for her managerial talents. If she went into politics it would be a shining example for all us women in the PDL.”

Margherita Boniver, another ruling MP, said: “If it’s true it would be a positive thing, because she is a very strong, decisive person, of the highest quality, who has inherited many of the strengths of her father.”

Italy’s right-wing press also threw their support behind a future candidacy. “Marina to become the nightmare of the Left,” ran a headline in Il Tempo newspaper last week, above a flattering picture.

“If things get really bad for Berlusconi, the only person that he will really trust is a member of his family,” said Roberto D’Alimonte, a political analyst at Luiss University in Rome.

“Of his five children, she is the only one with the guts to do the job. She has the same determination as her father. She may not have his ability to communicate to people, but that can be developed.”

According to the report, many Italians would see Marina’s lack of political experience as an advantage, given the low regard in which they hold most politicians.

Marina, who is married to a former dancer from Milan’s La Scala opera with whom she has two children, has proved herself a loyal supporter of her father. She has praised him as a man with “nerves of steel” who would be remembered “as the longest serving and most loved leader in the history of the Italian republic”.

Marina Berlusconi has said that the suggestion that she might jump into politics is “hypothetical”. But her father was similarly coy in the early 1990s, shortly before he entered politics and became prime minister for the first time.

Berlusconi insisted Friday that he deserved to be prime minister and would fight to remain so “in the interests of the country”.

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