Giovedì, 18 Ottobre 2018

Tension soars over PD call for Berlusconi to quit


(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, August 7 - Sparks were flying within the
grand coalition supporting Premier Enrico Letta's fragile
government on Wednesday after the leader of the centre-left
Democratic Party (PD) said Silvio Berlusconi should end his
political career after a tax-fraud conviction was upheld.
Last week's verdict by the supreme Court of Cassation has
put huge strain on Letta's executive, which needs the support of
Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party and his own PD to
stay afloat.
PdL Senate whip Renato Schifani and House whip Renato
Brunetta met President Giorgio Napolitano on Monday to discuss
ways to make it possible for three-time premier 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.
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
He looks set to be stripped of his status as Senator sooner
or later. A five-year ban on holding public office that came
with the tax-fraud conviction has been sent back to the Milan
appeals court for review.
So PD Secretary Guglielmo Epifani said the 76-year-old
media magnate should now accept that his long spell as the
dominant figure of Italian politics is over.
"I can't see any other option but for him to accept the
sentence and the effects it produces," Epifani said in an
interview published in Wednesday's edition of Corriere della
"There are no other roads".
The PdL, which has said it will continue to support Letta's
government after threatening beforehand to sink it if the
conviction was upheld, accused Epifani of undermining the
"Epifani's comments inflame the political climate at a time
when it's necessary to cool it down," said Schifani.
"It's not a provocation but almost. We don't need lessons
from anyone".
Berlusconi and his supporters say last week's verdict is
the result of a campaign of persecution by left-wing elements
in the judiciary that started when the billionaire
embarked on a political career two decades ago.
The ex-premier said at a rally on Sunday that the PdL will
keep supporting the government, while demanding it implement
reforms of the justice system.
When asked whether his stance could put the government in
peril, Epifani told Corriere that "the principle of legality in
a democratic state comes before any political assessment".
PdL MP and former education minister Mariastella Gelmini
said the PD leader was being inconsistent.
"If, on one hand, Epifani says he's worried about the
government's stability, on the other, the interview he gave
Corriere is his personal contribution to making it shake," she
The PdL's national coordinator, former minister Sandro
Bondi, at the weekend threatened that there could be a form of
"civil war" in Italy if a way is not found to keep Berlusconi in
the political fray, earning himself a stiff reproach from
On Tuesday sources at Napolitano's office called for an end
to "intrusions" as he considers the situation with Berlusconi
after newspaper reports on what he might do appeared in the
There have been calls from some PdL figures, including
Brunetta, for Napolitano to grant Berlusconi a pardon, although
this appears unlikely for many reasons.
These include 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.
A Senate commission will meet later on Wednesday to discuss
whether to strip Berlusconi of his status as Senator.
However, a vote on turfing the 76-year-old billionaire from
the Upper House is likely to be postponed until September.

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