News / Europe

Berlusconi Allies Step up Threats over Italian Senate Ruling

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi speaks during a rally to protest his tax fraud conviction, outside his palace in central Rome, August 4, 2013.
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi speaks during a rally to protest his tax fraud conviction, outside his palace in central Rome, August 4, 2013.
Reuters
Allies of Silvio Berlusconi stepped up their threat on Tuesday to bring down Italy's government if center-left lawmakers refuse to delay hearings over expelling him from parliament.

A cross-party Senate committee, which is deciding whether Berlusconi should be barred from the upper house following a conviction for tax fraud last month, resumes talks at 8.00 p.m. (1800 GMT) after an initial meeting on Monday.

The billionaire former prime minister's People of Freedom party (PDL) accused its coalition partners in the center-left Democratic Party (PD) of “an act of war” by insisting on going ahead swiftly with the hearings.

“We are appalled by the attitude of the Democratic Party,” PDL secretary Angelino Alfano said in a Facebook post. “They prefer to bring the country to its knees just to eliminate their historic political enemy via judicial means.”

A special Italian Senate committee meets at the Senate in Rome, Sept. 9, 2013, to consider expelling Silvio Berlusconi from parliament over his conviction for tax fraud.A special Italian Senate committee meets at the Senate in Rome, Sept. 9, 2013, to consider expelling Silvio Berlusconi from parliament over his conviction for tax fraud.
x
A special Italian Senate committee meets at the Senate in Rome, Sept. 9, 2013, to consider expelling Silvio Berlusconi from parliament over his conviction for tax fraud.
A special Italian Senate committee meets at the Senate in Rome, Sept. 9, 2013, to consider expelling Silvio Berlusconi from parliament over his conviction for tax fraud.
Even before the committee meeting had properly begun, arguments broke out between the main partners in center-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta's cross-party coalition, with PDL members proposing an immediate delay until an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights can be heard.

The PD, which has the largest number of members on the 23-member committee, accused the center right of delaying tactics and intends to vote down three motions to delay the hearings.

With Italy straining to contain its 2 trillion euro public debt, the Berlusconi imbroglio has also hobbled efforts to reform the euro zone's third largest economy, causing worries that extend well beyond its own borders.

Renato Brunetta, floor leader of the PDL in the lower house, said that if the left and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement maintained their opposition, the fragile coalition formed after February's deadlocked parliamentary elections would fall apart.

“If the Democratic Party and Grillo's people decide this evening to vote against the proposals, the Democratic Party will bring down the Letta government,” he told RAI state radio.

Berlusconi, convicted by Italy's top court last month of being at the center of a vast tax fraud conspiracy at his Mediaset television empire, could not be expelled without a full vote on the floor of the upper house.

But he in any case faces banishment from front-line politics for at least a year after the court sentenced him to a four-year jail term that was then commuted to one year under house arrest or in community service.

Bond Market nerves

Berlusconi, who has maintained a low public profile for more than a month, is due to meet PDL lawmakers on Wednesday.

Whether a government crisis would necessarily lead to new elections is unclear, given President Giorgio Napolitano's reluctance to send Italy back to the polls.

If the PDL makes good on its threat, Napolitano could try to oversee the creation of a new government formed around the PD with the support of dissidents from the center right or 5-Star.

Berlusconi's own party remains divided between hawks pressing for a showdown with the PD and more moderate elements and executives from his business empire who fear that the party risks isolating itself with no guaranteed payoff.

“The people from Berlusconi's business are telling him that bringing the government down and causing new elections would be a big blow for them,” one PDL lawmaker on the party's moderate wing told Reuters.

With the European Central Bank pledging to step in to prevent bond market turmoil of the kind which threatened Italy at the height of the euro zone debt crisis in 2011, financial markets have shown no signs of panic.

But Italy's borrowing costs have crept up over the past few weeks and an auction of mid-term bonds on Thursday will be closely watched for any signs of investor nerves.

On Tuesday, Spanish government bond yields fell below Italy's for the first time in 18 months as worries over the political standoff hit sentiment.

Although there have been faint signs of improvement after some two years of recession, data on Tuesday showed the economy still far from recovery.

Bank of Italy Governor Ignazio Visco said the decline in output should end in the next few months but he warned that the any recovery could be at risk from the political instability.

However, despite a chorus of warnings from bodies ranging from the European Commission to the International Monetary Fund that Italy cannot afford political chaos, parliament has been absorbed for weeks in the details of Berlusconi's legal woes.

The center right maintains that Berlusconi is the victim of leftist magistrates and says the so-called “Severino law” under which he could be expelled from the Senate cannot apply in his case because it was only passed last year, after the events over which he was convicted.

His appeal to the European Court of Human Rights is aimed at having the law declared inapplicable but it would be several months before the court would be ready to reach any decision.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs