Silvio Berlusconi May Have Chosen a Successor

Uri Friedman

Silvio Berlusconi has dominated Italian politics ever since he was first elected prime minister in 1994, managing to rebound, Lazarus-like, from numerous scandals and criminal trials. But the 74-year-old politician claims he's now eying a successor.

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At a dinner with foreign correspondents on Tuesday night, The Guardian reports, Berlusconi announced that he would probably not seek reelection in 2013, adding that he wanted his 40-year-old Sicilian justice minister, Angelino Alfano, to be the next leader of his center-right People of Freedom party.

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Cynics, however, may interpret Berlusconi's comments as a sign of how seriously the prime minister is taking the various criminal charges arrayed against him--which include allegations that he paid for sex with a minor--and playing a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card by tapping Alfano (pictured above), who's currently shepherding a bill through parliament that would shorten the statute of limitations in criminal trials. Namely criminal trials like the one involving Berlusconi. Critics argue that the bill represents nothing more than the prime minister's latest attempt to escape justice, The Guardian explains. The Wall Street Journal adds that Alfano, "has been at the forefront of Mr. Berlusconi's efforts to rein in the powers of the judiciary, which the premier believes is politically-biased and out to persecute him."