di Marcello Mento
Rome, October 24 - Silvio Berlusconi said on Wednesday that he will not run to become Italian premier for the fourth time in elections next year. "For the love of Italy, one can doe crazy and wise things," said the ex-premier in a statement. "Eighteen years ago I came into office, a foolhardy venture not devoid of wisdom. Now I choose to take a step back, for the same love that moved me to act back then". The media magnate said in a statement that his People of Freedom (PdL) party would hold primaries to decide who will be its candidate by the end of December. "I remain at the side of younger people who can play and score goals," said Berlusconi, 76, who owns the AC Milan soccer club. Since Mario Monti replaced Berlusconi as premier in November, the PdL has criticized the government of technocrats for its tough austerity measures, and party leaders have repeatedly said that Berlusconi would run again. But the PdL's tone has softened as of late, with some members of the party calling for an overhaul of the party structure and image following a raft of corruption cases, culminating in this month's arrest of former PdL Lazio caucus leader Franco Fiorito for alleged embezzlement. Polls currently give the center-left Democratic Party (PD) a clear lead over the centre-right PdL with comedian Beppe Grillo's Five Star protest movement third. PdL Secretary Angelino Alfano recently said Berlusconi would consider stepping aside "in order not to surrender Italy to the left," perhaps to form a single "centrist" coalition. The next general election is scheduled by May when Monti, an unelected technocrat, ends his term. Monti was appointed premier in November amid rising turmoil in the euro crisis that forced Berlusconi to step down.