MILAN, Italy, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's sex trial was resumed on Monday after judges rejected his lawyers' request to suspend it during the electoral campaign ahead of next month's vote.
Berlusconi's lawyers had requested the trial be suspended because Berlusconi would be "too busy" leading the center-right coalition's campaign ahead of the national election set on Feb. 24-25 to attend hearings.
They said that he also wanted to avoid the trial "influencing the campaign" having repercussions in the media.
Berlusconi is accused of paying for sex with underage Moroccan-born cabaret dancer Karima el-Mahroug, better known by her nickname "Ruby Heartstealer", in 2010 and using his position to allegedly try to cover it up.
In the trial, dozens of showgirls have described sex parties at Berlusconi's houses. Both Berlusconi and el-Mahroug have denied having had sexual relations, but taped phone conversations and the testimony of witnesses seem to indicate otherwise.
The 76-year-old billionaire media tycoon, who has faced multiple fraud and corruption trials, has often claimed that he was the victim of left-wing magistrates.
Berlusconi resigned in November 2011 from prime minister in disgrace sparked by the Ruby court case and others as well as fears that Italy could fall victim to the European debt crisis.
The four-time premier is now leading the center-right coalition into vote amid controversy about the group's failure to say who their candidate to head the government is.
He entered the campaign after announcing last October that he felt obliged to remain in politics after being "unjustly" convicted to four years in jail for tax fraud with the purchase of broadcasting rights by his Mediaset television company, although he will not have to serve any time in prison until the definite sentence.
After his People of Freedom (PdL) party agreed a pact to revive its long-standing alliance with the Northern League earlier this month, Berlusconi has gradually improved his alliance's opinion poll ratings but is still far behind the center-left that is expected to win.
His pre-election encounter with one of his fiercest critics and talk-show host Michele Santoro last week attracted a 33.5 percent share of the prime-time audience, or 8.7 million viewers, the best-ever viewing figures for the La7 channel.
According to Sunday's polls of the Tecne research institute, Berlusconi's coalition was at 26 percent overall, up 1.6 percent compared to Saturday.
His center-left rivals, led by the Democratic Party (PD) leader Pier Luigi Bersani, fell 0.8 percentage points to 37.8 percent, while the centrist group of caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti drop 1.3 points to 14.5 percent.
A separate survey published by the Ispo institute showed that the Berlusconi coalition was leading with 35.7 percent support in Lombardy, of which the capital city is Milan, considered a decisive region for national election because has more seats in the 315-member parliament upper house, or Senate, than any other region.
Should Berlusconi win the northern business region, that would make the next government more unstable and likely force Bersani's alliance to seek a power-sharing deal with Monti's centrists, local analysts said.
Berlusconi has repeatedly said that the center-right has the potential to win the election. On Monday, he said that he prefers to be the next economy minister, rather than premier, as the position of Italian prime minister is not so appealing to him because "does not carry real power."
ROME, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The election campaign for Itlian premiership seems to be reshaping alliances among power contenders in the crisis-hit country, which is approaching next month's crucial vote amid feisty electoral debate.
On Thursday, local media highlighted heated talks between poll favorite Pier Luigi Bersani, leader of the Democratic Party (PD), and caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti who has taken the helm at a new centrist coalition. Full story