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

In China, Mixed Signals on Ebola Controls

How authorities are monitoring at-risk individuals remains unclear, including whether there are quarantines for Chinese health workers returning from West Africa More

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Electionsi
X
October 31, 2014 4:10 AM
Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Women Voters Anxious Ahead of US Elections

Public opinion polls show American voters are deeply dissatisfied with their government and anxious about threats from abroad. This is especially true for a key voting group both Republicans and Democrats are trying hard to win over: women. Analysts say if women are focused on national security, it could be bad news for Democrats, with majority control of the Senate at stake. VOA’s Cindy Saine looks at the crucial role women voters will play in deciding the elections.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid