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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid