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Full Italian Senate Vote Looms on Berlusconi Expulsion

People of Freedom party member Silvio Berlusconi makes an address on stage in Brescia May 11, 2013.
An Italian Senate committee has voted to expel former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi from parliament due to his conviction for tax fraud, setting the stage for a full Senate vote expected later this month.

The 15-8 vote to evict the 77-year-old Berlusconi, who has dominated Italian politics for two decades, was taken Friday by a cross-party committee of senators dominated by Berlusconi's political opponents. The media tycoon's supporters are also a minority in the full Senate.

In August, Italy's Supreme Court turned down Berlusconi's second and final appeal against the tax fraud verdict, upholding his first definitive conviction after many years of legal challenges. A Milan court is set to rule this month on whether he should serve his one-year prison term under house arrest or with community service.

Italian law prohibits people with convictions from holding public office. But Berlusconi loyalists insist the law should not apply in his case, because the offenses occurred before it was passed.

Berlusconi - seeking political leverage - threatened last week to pull his ministers from Prime Minister Enrico Letta's grand coalition, in a move aimed at forcing snap elections. But in a sign of diminishing support, the ministers themselves balked and Berlusconi was forced to back Letta in parliament.