An Italian senate committee began discussing the possible ejection of Silvio Berlusconi from parliament today (Sunday, September 15), a decision which could end his political career but also bring down Italy’s fragile coalition government.
The pending vote, which could take place within days, has created a fierce stand off between Berlusconi’s supporters and the centre left Democratic Party, which together prop up Prime Minister Enrico Letta, while nervous financial markets have reacted by hiking Italy’s borrowing costs.
The committee is voting to confirm the implementation of a law passed in January which suspends from politics anyone convicted to two years or more, following Mr. Berlusconi’s definitive, four-year conviction for tax fraud last month.
Senior aides of Mr. Berlusconi’s have warned the media mogul will pull his ministers from the government if he is ousted from parliament, claiming the law cannot be applied to crimes committed before it was passed.
Andrea Augello, from Mr. Berlusconi’s Freedom People Party, opened proceedings on Monday by demanding the committee – in which opponents of Berlusconi are the majority – consider referring the matter to Italy’s constitutional court and waiting to hear back from the European Court of Human Rights, where Mr. Berlusconi has lodged an appeal.
Behind the arguing over complex points of law – which has seen the opinions of Italian constitutionalists fill Italian newspapers for days – a high stakes game of bluff is under way, with both sides fighting over Mr. Berlusconi’s future but neither wanting to appear responsible for bringing down the government.
Ahead of the hearing, Enrico Letta told the BBC he believed Berlusconi’s ministers would stay faithful to the government. “I think they won’t leave the coalition,” he said.
Mr. Berlusconi’s woes are not restricted to parliament since an Italian appeal court is also recalculating a separate ban on political office for the former prime minister which was handed down as part of his fraud sentence. He is meanwhile facing one year under house arrest, a reduction on his four-year fraud sentence thanks to an amnesty law.
Source: Telegraph, September 16