Bersani relishing prospect of Berlusconi tussle

PD leader rules out forming ticket with Renzi

Bersani relishing prospect of Berlusconi tussle

Tripoli, December 4 - Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani said Tuesday that he is relishing the prospect of taking on ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi in next spring's national elections in Italy. Bersani was chosen as the centre left's premier candidate when he won a primary last weekend and he is favourite to triumph at the elections with the PD enjoying a significant lead in the polls. Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) party is in a state of confusion as its premier candidate is still not known just months before the vote. The party was meant to hold a primary on December 16 but this looks likely to be scrapped after Berlusconi said he was considering coming out of political retirement and standing for a fourth term as Italian premier. "If that's the challenge, we'll take it on," Bersani told reporters during a visit to Tripoli when asked about the possibility Berlusconi will be his opponent. "I can't wait". A series of corruption scandals affecting top centre-right politicians in Rome and Milan have contributed to the PdL, which is the biggest party in parliament at the moment, dropping to third in the opinion polls. But the party has also been suffering from a vacuum of leadership since Berlusconi stepped back from the front line. The PdL has been overtaken in the polls by comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which is against the current party system and wants Italy to have a referendum on whether to keep the euro as its currency. On Tuesday Bersani also ruled out standing for premier with Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, the man he beat in the centre-left primary runoff, as his deputy. Renzi, a 37-year-old who presents himself as a force of modernisation in Italian politics, also said he was not interested in being on an election ticket. "We don't have a duopoly," Bersani said when asked about the idea of having Renzi as his running mate. "I don't demand a monopoly, but we are an open, plural group, we discuss things together. We are a great big team who want to serve the country". Renzi also reiterated his stance that, having failed in his bid to win the primary, he will go back to being mayor of Florence full time. "My future is in this role," he said in Florence. "Naturally, I hope the centre left does not lose the determination it has had over the last three months. "We all have to lend a hand but this should take place without the usual debates about whether to have a single ticket, whether to stand for parliament. "I'm the mayor (here) and I try to do a good job. Let's try to interrupt the (usual) chit-chat of politics in Rome".

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