Lunedì, 22 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Letta vows to press on amid turmoil over Berlusconi

English
© ANSA

(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, August 8 - Premier Enrico Letta said Thursday
that his government was "determined" to press on, amid ongoing
turmoil between the parties supporting his left-right executive
after the supreme court upheld Silvio Berlusconi's tax-fraud
conviction last week.
Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party wants ways to
find ways to make it possible for the ex-premier to continue to
be active in politics even though a 2012 anti-corruption law
makes people who have received definitive criminal convictions
ineligible to run in future elections or hold public office.
Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), however, has
called on Berlusconi to accept the four-year prison sentence -
three years of which have been commuted because of an amnesty -
and step back from the political fray.
Berlusconi's party has warned that this stance is
threatening the survival of the unnatural alliance between the
traditional foes in the PD and the centre-right PdL, which gave
life to Letta's administration in April to end two months of
deadlock after February's inconclusive general election.
Letta told a press conference when asked about the turmoil
that his government's response was to "work with great
determination".
The premier has previously said it would be a "crime" for
its government to collapse as it works to pull Italy out of what
he described as the worst economic crisis today's generations
have experienced.
But he has also stressed that he will not stay at the helm
of power at all costs and will quit if the turbulence makes it
impossible for him to govern.
Tension soared after PD Secretary Guglielmo Epifani said
there were "no other roads" but for Berlusconi to "accept the
sentence and the effects it produces" in a newspaper interview
published Wednesday.
Former PD President Rosy Bindi backed that stance Thursday,
saying the PdL should not use the government as a tool to win
concessions for Berlusconi.
"The Letta government was not created to make peace (with
the centre right)," she told Rome-based daily La Repubblica.
"Those who think the grand coalition serves to absolve
Berlusconi and grant him a political safe-conduct are not our
partners.
"This government is useful if it does things the Italian
people need, if it does good for the country".
The PdL says the line is putting the government in peril.
"We in he PdL are working so that the government moves
forward, but there has to be the same conviction in the PD,"
said Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi, a PdL member.
"They have to clearly tell us whether they want to continue
to be part of this project or not.
"Epifani's statements are a provocation but we don't want
to bite. The PdL is united in its support of Berlusconi and of
the government".
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.
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 sentence comes into effect in
October.
Napolitano is taking time to consider the situation.
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.
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.

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