* Berlusconi's partner sees daughter Marina as political
* Son Pier Silvio plays down possibility he will take reins
* Berlusconi children in senior positions in his businesses
ROME, March 21 Silvio Berlusconi's daughter
Marina should lead his centre-right party in European
parliamentary elections after he was banned from public office,
the companion of the 77-year-old media billionaire said in an
interview on Friday.
"It's obvious that without him the centre-right is
stumbling. That's why I hope his daughter Marina takes up the
challenge," Francesca Pascale told the daily La Repubblica.
"I hope, humbly, even egotistically, that Marina Berlusconi
will really think of this incredible challenge, even though, as
a woman, I realise what a sacrifice it would represent."
Italy's highest appeals court this week confirmed a two-year
ban on holding public office imposed on Berlusconi after he was
convicted of masterminding a serious tax fraud scheme at his
Mediaset television empire.
Pascale, 28, is widely considered to have a strong influence
over Berlusconi but there has so far been no clear indication
from any of Berlusconi's children that they will enter politics.
Marina Berlusconi, 47, a senior executive at Fininvest,
Berlusconi's financial holding company, has long been seen as a
potential political heir although she has always resisted
pressure to take over her father's party.
However speculation has grown that she or one of the former
prime minister's other children Pier Silvio, 44, or Barbara, 29,
could take the reins to ensure the Berlusconi name remains on
Pier Silvio, deputy chairman of Mediaset, was quoted by
several Italian newspapers on Friday ruling out a political
career. "Politics is not about succession but experience and
competence. It's something you have to earn," he was quoted as
saying by the La Stampa daily.
Berlusconi's Forza Italia party has been weakened by a split
in the centre-right which saw a breakaway group defect last year
to support the government of former Prime Minister Enrico Letta.
That group, headed by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, a
former Berlusconi protege, now supports the government of Prime
Minister Matteo Renzi.
According to an opinion poll by the SWG institute on Friday,
a broad coalition of centre-right parties holds a very slight
advantage over the centre-left but Forza Italia officials fear
that without Berlusconi's vote-winning charisma support for the
party could crumble.
Forza Italia currently enjoys around 22 percent support
compared with 31.6 percent for Renzi's centre-left Democratic
Party (PD) and 20.4 percent for the anti-establishment 5-Star
Movement led by Beppe Grillo.
As well as the ban on public office, Berlusconi, who was
stripped of his seat in the Senate last year, also faces a year
under house arrest or in community service over the tax fraud
conviction, with a court due to rule on the sentence on April
(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)