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Italy's Berlusconi says will be coordinator of center-right

FILE PHOTO - Forza Italia party leader Silvio Berlusconi casts his vote at a polling station in Milan, Italy March 4, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

ROME (Reuters) - Italian center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi said on Tuesday his center-right coalition must receive a mandate to govern after winning the most seats at a national election, and that he would be its coordinator.

Berlusconi congratulated Matteo Salvini, leader of his eurosceptic partner the League, which unexpectedly beat the former premier’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!) party in Sunday’s vote. The alliance fell short of an absolute majority.

“I am happy for Matteo Salvini and the League,” the 81 year-old said in a video message. “I confirm that ... I remain Forza Italia’s leader, I will be the coordinator of the center-right, I will be guarantor for unity in the coalition.”

He is barred from holding office due to a 2013 tax fraud conviction, a fact he said had put his party at a disadvantage.

“It would have been very different if they hadn’t blocked me from running properly as a candidate.”

Reporting by Isla Binnie