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Italy's Berlusconi in hospital, misses EU campaign event

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By Reuters
Italy's Berlusconi in hospital, misses EU campaign event
FILE PHOTO: Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi speaks after talks with President Sergio Mattarella at the Quirinale palace in Rome, Italy, April 12, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi/File Photo   -   Copyright  Max Rossi(Reuters)

By Sara Rossi

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s elderly former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was taken to hospital with severe kidney pain on Tuesday and missed a political event by his party whom he is standing for in next month’s European Parliament election.

The 82-year-old media tycoon has faded as a political force since being forced to quit as prime minister in 2011 but still leads his conservative Forza Italia (Go Italy) party.

Though dogged by health concerns in recent years, and undergoing open heart surgery in 2016, Berlusconi has never indicated he is ready to retire from politics and is top of Forza Italia’s list for the May 26 European elections.

The party described his complaint as renal colic, a severe pain caused by kidney stones.

Though Forza Italia said Berlusconi may resume campaigning later on Tuesday, he did not show up at the event scheduled for the afternoon with the European election candidates.

Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament and deputy chairman of Forza Italia, said doctors advised Berlusconi against attending.

“Berlusconi is committed to the electoral campaign and will take part in TV shows,” Tajani added on a Facebook live video.

Berlusconi’s family holding group Fininvest controls Italy’s largest commercial broadcaster group Mediaset.

In a flat market, Mediaset shares were up 1.33 percent at around 4:10 p.m., back from the 3 percent peak reached soon after Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera website first reported Berlusconi was in hospital.

The flamboyant Berlusconi has been prime minister four times in a political career beset by corruption and sex scandals. He says he is the victim of leftist magistrates and has constantly defied his many enemies to overcome legal and health setbacks and return to frontline politics.

His bid for a European Parliament seat is his first run at public office since being found guilty of tax fraud in 2013.

Berlusconi campaigned for Forza Italia in last March’s national election but said his inability to stand as a candidate hurt its chances and for the first time the party trailed the League, by 14 percent of the vote to 17.35 percent.

(Additional reporting by Valentina Za and Crispian Balmer and Elvira Pollina; Writing by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Andrew Cawthorne)