Berlusconi promises to return to campaign trail after rest

Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian premier, is promising he'll be back on the campaign trail next week after skipping a slew of appearances due to fatigue and the "pain" of choosing candidates for the March 4 general election.

The 81-year-old, who underwent heart valve surgery in 2016, said Thursday he had taken a few days off but was "fine" and would resume campaigning on Monday.

Political parties faced a Jan. 29 deadline to submit names of candidates competing for parliamentary colleges under Italy's new electoral system — a process Berlusconi acknowledged caused him pain because some longtime allies were excluded.

The center-right coalition of Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the anti-immigrant League and smaller Brothers of Italy lead in polls. Berlusconi himself cannot run for office due to a tax fraud conviction.