Silvio Berlusconi said late Wednesday his alliance with Italy's right-wing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was still holding, hours after blocking Rome's candidate to head the state broadcaster RAI.
The coalition around Berlusconi's centre-right Forza Italia (FI) party and Salvini's League "exists and as far as I'm concerned will always exist," he told the Huffington Post Italia, adding he believed the coalition government between the League and the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) would not last.
Tensions between Salvini and Berlusconi have been high ever since the League agreed to form a government with Five Star, the country's largest single party and fierce rivals of the three-time former prime minister.
Earlier Wednesday the nomination of conspiracy theorist Marcello Fao to head RAI was shot down thanks to opposition from the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and in particular from Berlusconi's FI, whose votes were decisive.
Media mogul Berlusconi had objected to not being consulted by Salvini, saying it was a "bad sign" that a decision for such a key position was "agreed only within the government".
In a statement the League expressed displeasure at "the PD-FI axis that is trying to stop change".
"This is a normal dialectic between allies," Berlusconi said.
"The League is used to using colorful language, but the real change that they want is certainly not the M5S, it's a change that is less state, less tax and less bureaucracy."
Berlusconi also refused to condemn the provocations of Salvini and denounced demonisation of the minister, who is accused by the left of fuelling xenophobic sentiment in the country.
"Also between allies there may be differences: the language of Salvini is not mine and our contents are very different, but I do not share the demonisation that is being made: Salvini is not a racist, nor an enemy of democracy," he said.
The 81-year-old billionaire also said the League-M5S coalition government "won't last long".
"If the League does not quickly abandon a government whose economic policy is dictated by the M5S, it is the right-wing voters who will abandon the League," he said.
FI and the League had campaigned together ahead of March's general election as part of a four-party right-wing coalition in which the League won the most votes. The two parties also govern together in a host of local and regional administrations.
Former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi says the League-M5S coalition government 'won't last long'