Berlusconi seals League deal, 'won't be premier'

Maroni says 'explicit' ex-premier will not return to office

Berlusconi seals League deal, 'won't be premier'

Rome, January 7 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi announced Monday that he has reached a deal for his People of Freedom (PdL) party to resume its alliance with the Northern League for next month's Italian elections. But Northern League leader Roberto Maroni said the pact "explicitly stated" that Berlusconi would not be Italian prime minister for a fourth time if the centre-right coalition wins. Maroni had made Berlusconi dropping ambitions to be premier again a condition for a revival of the long-standing alliance. The media magnate said the issue of who will be premier in the case of a centre-right victory would be addressed after the elections. The 76-year-old suggested he may be economy minister and PdL Secretary Angelino Alfano premier. "Habemus papam," Berlusconi told RTL radio using the Latin statement pronounced upon the announcement of a new pope. "Tonight at 1.30 an agreement was signed between us and the Northern League. "Roberto Maroni will be the candidate in Lombardy and I will be the leader of the moderates (at national level). The premier will be decided if we win". Maroni, who has won the PdL's backing for his bid to become governor of Lombardy thanks to the deal, said he was in favour of former economy minister Giulio Tremonti being at the helm of government rather than Alfano. Tremonti recently left the PdL to form his own party that has strong ties with the League. "Berlusconi is the head of the coalition and no premier candidate is named (in the agreement), but it says explicitly that it will not be Berlusconi," said Maroni. "Given that Berlusconi has pointed to Alfano, I'll allow myself to put forward Tremonti as a candidate. "We are very satisfied with the agreement as we can say that we'll probably win in Lombardy with the deal". He added that the centre right would work to create a "macro-region" in northern Italy after the elections. The League has long battled for greater autonomy for the wealthier richer regions of northern Italy. It also takes hard-line stances against immigration and several senior figures have been criticised for making allegedly xenophobic statements in the past. The PdL and the League's long-standing alliance ended after Berlusconi's third government collapsed in November 2011, when Italy's debt crisis forced the 76-year-old to resign from office. The League were staunch opponents of Premier Mario Monti's emergency technocrat government from the time it took over power. The PdL, meanwhile, backed it until last month. Although it has recovered recently, the PdL is polling at under 20%, compared to over 30% for the main centre-left Democratic Party, and had little chance of winning the elections without the support of the League.

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