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Berlusconi chosen to head new party

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was elected leader of a new conservative party, the People of Freedom (PDL), at its founding congress Sunday.

world Updated: Mar 29, 2009 19:06 IST

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was elected leader of a new conservative party, the People of Freedom (PDL), at its founding congress Sunday.

The group merges the right-wing National Alliance (NA) and Berlusconi's own Forza Italy in a bid to strengthen the conservative hold over national politics.

"I hope I am up to the task, I will try never to disappoint you," said Berlusconi, 72, to some 6,000 delegates gathered in Rome who elected him party chief in a show of hands.

The two parties already ran together under the PDL banner in last year's general elections which handed Berlusconi his third stint in power and with a comfortable parliamentary majority.

On the first day of the inaugural congress Friday, Berlusconi said the new grouping aims to win over 51 percent of the Italian electorate.

The creation of the new party comes two months before European elections planned for June.