Berlusconi had largely stayed out of the public spotlight for the past year â¿¿ until recent weeks, when he announced he was thinking about running again, then changed his mind, then threatened to bring down Monti's government, and then went silent about his political plans.
His waffling has thrown his People of Freedom party into disarray, disrupting its own plans for a primary which is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 16.
A poll published Friday gave the Democratic Party 30 percent of the vote if the election were held now, compared with 19.5 percent for the upstart populist movement of comic Beppe Grillo. Berlusconi's party was in third with 14.3 percent. The poll, by the SWG firm for state-run RAI 3, surveyed 5,000 voting-age adults by telephone between Nov. 26 and 28. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.
It's been quite a turnabout both for Berlusconi's once-dominant movement and the Democratic Party, which had been in shambles for years, unable to capitalize on Berlusconi's professional and personal failings.___ Maria Grazia Murru contributed from Rome. ___ Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield