French President Francois Hollande dismissed former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s announcement last week that he may run again to lead Italy's government in snap elections that could be held as early as February.
"I don't think there's a very serious bid by Mr. Berlusconi," Hollande said Thursday during a press conference at a summit of EU leaders, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"He seems to be ruling out his candidacy himself, but well, with him what's true one day isn't necessarily true the day after.”
Burlusconi resigned last year amid highly publicized corruption and sex scandals.
In one trial he was convicted of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to four years in prison, though it has been reduced to less than a year and is currently awaiting an appeal.
He was also banned from holding public office for five years, but the ban also hinges upon the results of his appeal.
The billionaire media magnate, infamous for reportedly hosting sex parties during his premiership, remains embroiled in a legal battle over charges that he solicited an under-aged prostitute.
When Berlusconi exited the political arena at the height of the European debt crisis, economist Mario Monti was selected to replace him and implement a series of austerity measures. Since then, Monti has governed in a largely technocratic fashion.
Monti announced over the weekend that he would resign from office early due to the withdrawal of support for his economic plan from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party earlier this week.
Italy has the second highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the Eurozone, exceeded only by Greece, which has fallen into economic disarray.
Berlusconi has said that he would undo a series of tax hikes and spending cuts imposed under Monti’s administration despite a broad consensus that they are stabilizing Italy’s economy.
“It has been a year that Italians are seriously sacrificing to try to avoid Greece’s abyss, and, today, there’s the re-emergence of Berlusconi, who wants to bring us back five years,’’ centrist leader Pier Ferdinando Casini said on Italian state TV, the Associate Press reported.
The possibility of Berlusconi’s return has also drawn criticism from the the wider European community, apart from Hollande.
“What Italy and Europe need is stability, and Mr. Berlusconi is the opposite of stability,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz said, according to the AP.
“So many of Italy’s problems are the results of the 10 years in which Berlusconi was prime minister.”