Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has relaunched his PDL party as Forza Italia, the political movement that brought him to power two decades ago.
It comes a day after Angelino Alfano, deputy prime minister and Berlusconi’s right-hand man for many years, announced he and his colleagues were defecting and forming a new party.
On stage at the relaunch, Berlusconi told the audience the break had caused him great pain but he still considered Alfano a potential ally in the future.
At one point he was overcome with emotion and his doctor rushed to his side on stage.
Tensions in Berlusconi’s party have been high as he faces expulsion from parliament over a court conviction. He wanted his party to bring down the government if he was expelled, but Alfano has pledged support for the coalition government.
“We have so many unemployed young people who can’t find jobs. We have many parents who have lost their jobs and to them we cannot say bringing down the government will resolve all the problems,” Alfano said.
However Alfano was also keen to play down any enmity, and stress the two men’s mutual respect.
The tentative name of his new breakaway party will be the “New Centre-Right”. The group, which includes 30 senators and 27 lower house deputies, will take enough votes with it to keep the government coalition alive until 2015.