Giovedì, 20 Settembre 2018
ROME

PdL whips meet president to discuss Berlusconi's plight

English
© ANSA

(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, August 5 - The parliamentary whips of Silvio
Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party met President Giorgio
Napolitano on Monday to discuss the ex-premier's plight after a
tax-fraud conviction against him was definitively upheld by the
supreme court last week.
PdL Senate whip Renato Schifani and House whip Renato
Brunetta are thought to have wanted to talk of ways to make it
possible for Berlusconi to stay active in politics after the
four-year prison sentence - three of which have been commuted
because of an amnesty - comes into effect in October.
The verdict by the supreme Court of Cassation has put huge
strain on Premier Enrico Letta's grand-coalition government,
which needs the PdL's support to stay afloat.
"Schifani and Brunetta illustrated to the president their
evaluations on the demands to satisfy for further consolidation
of the positive evolution of the political framework in Italy
and the development of stability that is useful to the
government," a source at Napolitano's office said.
After the talks with Napolitano, which lasted over an hour,
Schifani and Brunetta went to Berlusconi's Rome residence for a
meeting with party bigwigs, including Deputy Premier and
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano.
Berlusconi is not in danger of actually going to prison, as
he is over 70 and will be given the option of serving the
remaining year of the sentence under house arrest or doing
community service.
The terms of an anti-corruption law passed last year would
probably make him ineligible to run in future elections,
although some supporters have said it should not apply to the
three-time premier as the original sentence pre-dates the
legislation.
He looks set to be stripped of his status as Senator sooner
or later.
There have been calls from some PdL figures, including
Brunetta, for Napolitano to grant Berlusconi a pardon.
But this could be difficult for Napolitano to do for many
reasons, including the fact that Berlusconi is appealing against
two other criminal convictions, a seven-year sentence for paying
for sex with an underage prostitute and a one-year term for
involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap.
It may also be seen as a delegitimisation of the judiciary
if Napolitano grants a pardon soon after the supreme court of
Cassation's ruling.
Napolitano issued a statement Friday saying a pardon could
only be granted via the procedure set down by law, which says a
request should directly come from the convicted person, a family
member or a lawyer and arrive to the head of State after being
approved by the justice minister.
Berlusconi suggested Friday he would sink the government to
spark early elections unless Letta's government quickly
introduced reforms of the justice system, although on Sunday he
vowed to continue supporting the administration at a rally
outside his Rome home.
Berlusconi says he is innocent of tax fraud and argues he
is the victim of a campaign of persecution by left-wing elements
in the judiciary that started when the billionaire media magnate
embarked on a political career two decades ago.
Letta, a member of the centre-left Democratic Party, said
after Sunday's rally that he was pleased Berlusconi had renewed
his support for the government, while stressing he was waiting
to see whether his actions would match his words.
One factor working in Letta's favour is that the parties
are aware that, if the government collapses and they return to
the polls, the outcome is likely to be the similar to February's
inconclusive result.
This is because of a much-criticised election law that
makes it hard for coalitions to win working majorities in both
the Lower House and the Senate.
Beppe Grillo, meanwhile, dismissed reports his
anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) may be willing to form
a government with the PD if Premier Letta's executive falls.
The comedian-turned-politician Grillo stressed there is no
change in his stance that he will not govern with any of the
established parties, which he says are responsible for a
dysfunctional political system that has produced debt,
corruption and economic decline.
"The PdL and the PD are the same," Grillo said via his
Twitter account, @beppe_grillo.
"There is no chance of me allying with one or the other, or
voting confidence (in governments led by them)".
The PD and the PdL, traditional foes, formed an alliance to
make Letta's government possible in April following two months
of deadlock after February's inconclusive general election.
Before cutting a deal with the PdL, the PD tried
unsuccessfully to get the M5S, which won around a quarter of the
vote in February, to form an alliance.

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