News / Europe

Berlusconi Expelled from Italian Senate Over Tax Fraud

Silvio Berlusconi addresses supporters in Rome, Nov. 27, 2013, after the Italian Senate expelled the three-time ex-premier from parliament over his tax fraud conviction.
Silvio Berlusconi addresses supporters in Rome, Nov. 27, 2013, after the Italian Senate expelled the three-time ex-premier from parliament over his tax fraud conviction.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— The Italian Senate expelled Silvio Berlusconi over his tax fraud conviction on Wednesday, drawing a defiant response from the veteran center-right leader who vowed to continue leading his party and fight on outside parliament.

The vote, after months of political wrangling, opens an uncertain new phase in Italian politics, with the 77-year-old media billionaire preparing to use all his extensive resources to attack Prime Minister Enrico Letta's coalition government.

“We are here on a bitter day, a day of mourning for democracy,” Berlusconi told several thousand supporters from his Forza Italia party in front of his residence in central Rome as the Senate voted only a few hundred yards away.

Berlusconi, who has dominated politics in Italy for two decades, has already pulled his party out of Letta's coalition after seven months in government, accusing leftwing opponents of mounting a “coup d'etat” to eliminate him.

Stripped of his parliamentary immunity from arrest, he is more vulnerable in a series of other cases, where he is accused of offenses including political bribery and paying for sex with a minor.

However he no longer commands enough support in parliament to bring down the government, which easily won a confidence vote on the 2014 budget late on Tuesday with the support of around 30 dissidents who split off from Forza Italia this month.

Letta declared on Wednesday that his government was now “stronger and more cohesive” after winning the budget vote and said it would press on with its reform program.

The Senate declared Berlusconi ineligible for parliament after he was convicted of masterminding a complex system of illegally inflated invoices to cut the tax bill for his Mediaset television empire.

Under a law passed with Berlusconi's support last year, politicians convicted of serious criminal offenses are ineligible for parliament, but his expulsion had to be confirmed by a full vote in the Senate.

The court sentenced him to four years in jail, commuted to a year likely to be spent performing community service. He was also banned from holding public office for two years, preventing any immediate return to government.

Both Letta's center-left Democratic Party (PD) and former comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement rejected a series of motions challenging the move.

Victim

In a characteristic piece of political theater, Berlusconi addressed a rally of supporters outside his Rome residence as the vote was taking place, underlining that he will remain a troublesome opponent to the government even outside parliament.

“I'm not going to be retiring to some convent,” he told supporters. “We're staying here!”

Much like Grillo, who does not sit in parliament but who keeps up a steady stream of attacks in public meetings and on his widely read blog, Berlusconi is almost certain to mount a sustained campaign against the government in the run-up to the European parliamentary elections in May.

The political battle over Berlusconi has already hampered any serious overhaul of Italy's stagnant economy, which is stuck in a recession that has lasted more than two years, sending youth unemployment over 40 percent.

The split on the center-right may have removed the immediate threat to Letta, who has won two confidence votes in parliament since Berlusconi's conviction, but the risk of further judicial conflict over any of the other criminal trials and investigations hanging over Berlusconi could inflame his supporters still further.

Berlusconi joined Letta's Democratic Party in an unlikely coalition after the February election left no side able to form a government on its own.

But relations were rocky from the start and were worsened by rows over tax policy and tensions over Berlusconi's tax fraud conviction in August.S

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid