Berlusconi's PdL to hold primaries December 16

Enfeebled party third in poles

Berlusconi's PdL to hold primaries December 16

Rome, November 22 - Primaries for the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi will be held December 16, party members announced upon leaving a meeting Thursday. "We'll hold primaries on December 16, just as we announced last October," said PdL Secretary Angelino Alfano. Alfano, one of roughly a dozen candidates vying to lead the party into spring general elections, had openly disagreed with Berlusconi about the need to hold primaries before the ex-premier gave in. The party, which has dominated Italian politics for years, has been battered by a string of corruption scandals and the flagging stature of its founder Berlusconi, convicted last month for tax fraud at his Mediaset empire and on trial for allegedly paying for sex with an underage prostitute. The results have led to Berlusconi sitting out the race, after a battering at the ballot box in regional elections last month in the PdL stronghold of Sicily and amid waning support in national opinion polls. According to pollster Ipsos, the PdL is in third place with 15.1% of the vote, behind comedian Beppe Grillo's antiestablishment Five Star Movement (M5S) at 20.6% and the center-left Democratic Party (PD) at 32.2%.

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