Mercoledì, 26 Settembre 2018

Fresh strains hit Letta's fledgling government


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, May 16 - Fresh strains hit Enrico's Letta's
fledgling right-left government Thursday with the centre-left
Democratic Party (PD) suggesting centre-right People of Freedom
(PdL) leader and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi should not be
allowed to serve as Senator because of a 1950s law barring the
holder of government licenses from working in government.
The two strange bedfellows, who almost tied in February's
general election, also clashed over the PdL's revived
controversial efforts to restrict the use and publication of
police wiretaps.
PD Senate Whip Luigi Zanda told bishops' daily l'Avvenire
that a so-far never-applied legal bar to Berlusconi's holding
public office because he has a government license to run three
TV channels should be considered "properly this time around".
"According to (an Italian) law (of 1957) Silvio Berlusconi
is ineligible for office because he is a (government) licensee,"
Zanda said.
Anna Maria Bernini, interim spokesperson for Berlusconi's
People of Freedom (PdL) party, said Zanda's words were "mines
planted under the political ground the Letta government is
acting on".
She claimed Zanda was "emulating the fanaticism" of the
anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) which came third in the
general election and has repeatedly called for the ineligibility
law to be enforced.
After Zanda's sally, M5S Senate Whip Vito Crimi reiterated:
"We're ready to vote for ineligibility, we think the issue
should be tabled as quickly as possible".
PdL bigwig, former minister Altero Matteoli, said the issue
could topple the government.
"If the PD and M5S vote for ineligibility, we'll all go
home," the head of the Senate labour committee said.
This prompted Zanda to stress that "my view is my own,
personal one, and does not bind the party at all. I've been
saying this for 10 years".
"My opinion will not affect government stability," he said.
It was in any case unlikely that the PD would press on the
issue as Berlusconi is a linchpin in the government.
Long-time enemies PD and PdL forged their unprecedented
alliance after two months of post-election stalemate in April.
Berlusconi's legal woes, including a trial for alleged sex
with a minor, and differences over tax reform were already
putting pressure on Letta's administration.
The 'ineligibility' issue was revived after Berlusconi's
ownership of Italy's three main non-State TV channels helped
boost his recent political comeback.
His flagship channel aired a programme Sunday that
presented his defence in the Milan sex trial, sparking
The prosecutor in that trial on Monday requested a six-year
jail term and a life ban from public office.
The PD is now also worried about two bills the PdL
resurrected Wednesday to allegedly 'gag' the judiciary with a
new restrictive law on wiretaps.
"That gagging law is not among the government's
priorities," said Zanda.
"What we should do, however, is cut down on leaks of
inappropriate wiretaps which have nothing to do with criminal
offences to the press".
On tax reform, Letta unveiled plans Wednesday to scrap a
June payment of a property tax called IMU on primary residences.
But he stopped short of extending the move to factories,
saying EU-mandated budget restrictions would not allow it.
PdL ministers went into a huddle Wednesday night with some
of them determined to battle the PD but Berlusconi reportedly
called them to order, the Italian media said.
Berlusconi campaigned on a pledge to scrap IMU altogether
and repay last year's revenues but has shown signs recently he
is willing to reach a deal with the PD.
The three-time premier's insistence on the emergency
government despite initial and strong resistance from the PD has
allowed him to pose as a statesman who puts Italy's interests
first, his supporters say.
President Giorgio Napolitano, who forged the unlikely
alliance after being re-elected following a PD internal
rebellion, on Thursday reiterated the government must move
quickly to pass urgent reforms and try to revive an economy
which is in its longest recession on record.
Napolitano praised the two main political parties for
making Letta's government possible but warned that elements in
the political class have not realised the country is on the
"razor's edge".
The president said in an interview published in Rome-based
daily Il Messaggero that he saw the start of new government as
"serious and serene" and that Letta was not letting himself "be
intimidated by polemics or incidents along the way".
But the head of State added that it was not easy for the
forces within government to "live together" as "the parties do
not stop reacting to events, each on their own way".
He also said that: "some people don't realise that we are
on the razor's edge with respect to Brussels".
Letta's government is hoping to convince the European
Commission to remove its excessive-deficit procedure against
Italy, with it forecasting that the deficit-to-GDP ratio will be
just below the permitted 3% threshold this year, at 2.9%.
Letta's predecessor, Mario Monti, helped steer Italy out of
the centre of the eurozone debt crisis at the helm of an
emergency technocrat administration.
But the country is seen as vulnerable to 'contagion' from
problems in other countries because of its massive public debt
of over two trillion euros.
Napolitano also called on the parties to have measured
reactions to criminal trials, a comment that seems directed at
the PdL, with Berlusconi involved in a number of cases aside
from the sex trial.
"The fewer disordered reactions there are, the better,"
Napolitano said.
Italy has an "acute need" for institutional reform, he
Premier Letta has said institutional reforms to make
Italy easier to govern are a priority for his government.
These reforms should include a new election law to replace
the much-criticised current one that failed to produce a clear
winner in February's general election.
The measures will also look to change the current
parliamentary set-up in which all laws must be approved by both
the House and Senate. This is blamed by many for being one of
the major sources of dysfunction for Italy's institutions.
"Renewal of our institutions and of our institutional
representatives is what our country has an acute need of,"
Napolitano said.

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