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Berlusconi says he's campaigning "like a young man," dismisses suggestions of ailments

Berlusconi says he's campaigning "like a young man," dismisses suggestions of ailments

Conservative leader Silvio Berlusconi insisted Friday that he has been campaigning "like a young man" for April's elections, seeking to dismiss suggestions of health problems because he skipped a TV appearance.
The 71-year-old media mogul had heart surgery in late 2006, shortly after collapsing during a political rally. He has since led several rallies and appeared on TV shows. On Friday, he appeared before reporters and allies to present his election platform in Rome.
Libero, a conservative newspaper close to Berlusconi, headlined its Friday editions with an appeal to Berlusconi to watch his health. It mentioned suggestions of a mild drop in blood pressure and another unspecified minor ailment.
Speculation mounted after Berlusconi skipped an appearance on the TG5 newscast Thursday evening on one of his TV channels.
"It's not true at all that I'm not well," Berlusconi said Friday morning. "Over the past days I've been working like a young man."
Berlusconi said he skipped the TV appearance because he was "very busy" with the election platform. "The program was completed and analyzed with allies until midnight," he said.
But he did take a pot shot at the press, saying he was late for Friday's appearance because he helped two journalists "who took ill."
Going into the April 13-14 elections, opinion polls show Berlusconi steadily ahead of his main rival for the premiership, 52-year-old Walter Veltroni of the center-left Democratic Party.
The elections are taking place three years ahead of schedule after the collapse of Premier Romano Prodi's center-left government, which lasted only 20 months.
Berlusconi says he is certain to win because Italians can no longer trust a left that he said ruined the nation's image and made Italians poorer and more insecure.
"It takes courage to take on the responsibility of succeeding this government and repair the damage it has caused in this difficult European and international situation," he said Friday as he presented the program in a Rome music auditorium.
Berlusconi noted the 12-page program did not promise "miracles" given Italy's sluggish economy. But he did promise to partially cut a real estate tax and to reduce income tax on overtime.
The former premier vowed to resume public works that had been put on hold by the outgoing center-left government and clean up the garbage that has piled up on the streets of Naples.
He also wants to move the country toward power generated by nuclear energy _ a controversial stance in a country that abolished nuclear power in a 1987 referendum. The center-left coalition is opposed to reintroducing atomic energy in Italy.
This weekend, thousands of kiosks will be set up across the country to allow center-right supporters to indicate their priorities. Berlusconi will be at one of them in the southern city of Bari on Saturday, starting a tour of the country.


Updated : 2021-04-14 13:47 GMT+08:00