Lunedì, 22 Ottobre 2018

Berlusconi's party sees govt crisis approaching


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, September 5 - Ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's
People of Freedom (PdL) Party said Thursday the government of
centre-left Democratic Party (PD) would fall if the PD votes to
eject Berlusconi from the Senate.
One of the media magnate-turned poltician's closest aides
reiterated that the government will collapse if the PD votes to
have the ex-premier stripped of his Senate seat after a
tax-fraud conviction.
"If the PD does not do its duty to take an in-depth look at
the judicial questions and declares that Berlusconi should be
stripped of his seat, the government is over," said Francesco
Nitto Palma, a senior member of the PdL, which has been in a
fragile government alliance with long-term foe the PD to end a
two-month post-election stalemate in April.
Nitto Palma is also chair of the Senate justice committee.
Berlusconi risks losing his parliamentary seat under the
terms of an anti-corruption law approved in 2012, which bans
anyone with a conviction like the three-time premier's from
holding office for six years.
The PdL claims the law is being applied retroactively in
Berlusconi's case, although it became effective before his
definitive four-year conviction for fraud on film rights for his
Mediaset empire on August 1.
The PdL says the offences for which Berlusconi was
convicted took place before the law was passed, and so it is
being applied retroactively, which they say is against the
Italian Constitution.
The PD has dismissed arguments from jurists sympathetic to
the PD as "quibbling" and says the law must be applied to
Berlusconi as it would be to anyone else.
A Senate panel will start examining the case Monday and is
expected to reach its conclusions soon, unless an appeal by
Berlusconi to the Constitutional Court is admitted.
A full Senate vote is required to make the ban effective
but the PdL says it will not come to that if the PD votes
against Berlusconi on the panel, because it would immediately
pull out of the unprecedented left-right coalition.
PdL Senate Whip Renato Schifani said he could "see the
moment of crisis approaching".
He scoffed at the notion the PD could form a new coalition
with parts of comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star
Movement (M5S) but added that if a "wonky, patched-together and
contradictory" alliance was set up, it would not be able to pass
key reforms and the PdL would be in "staunch" opposition.
The Pdl would prefer another election instead of that
scenario, Schifani said, even with an electoral law widely
blamed for February's inconclusive result, which Letta's
government had pledged to reform.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano was reported to have
said late Thursday he hoped a government crisis would be
The government, in whose formation Napolitano played a key
role, has had the president's unwavering support, presidential
sources said.
Napolitano was reported to have said he "trusted"
Berlusconi not to sink the government.
Presidential sources said Napolitano is not weighing what
to do in the event of a crisis because Berlusconi has stated he
will continue to back the government.
A crisis would bring "very grave risks" for Italy, which is
struggling to emerge from a vicious recession and needs deep
reforms, Napolitano was reported to have said.
The PD said it would be "a crime" to scupper the government
amid efforts to boost the economy and just after a hard-won
agreement to scrap an unpopular property tax, whose abolition
was Berlusconi's election rallying call.
Premier Letta said he was not thinking about a looming
crisis but concentrating on the goals to be met at the G20
summit he is attending in St Petersburg.
"I would hurt Italy if I got distracted from these goals,"
Letta said.
But he acknowledged that a crisis would "return Italy to
the dock" of countries having to defend themselves against
financial speculation, reviving fears that forced Berlusconi
from office in late 2011.
The Mediaset conviction, Berlusconi's first definitive
verdict in 20 years of battling magistrates he says are
left-wing, is not the only case pending against him.
He is appealing a seven-year sentence for paying an
underage prostitute for sex and a one-year term for
involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap
involving a bank takeover and a previous centre-left leader.
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 Mediaset sentence - cut from four by an
intervening amnesty - under house arrest or doing community
He has refused to serve it in either form and is busy
revamping the PdL to relaunch it under its initial name, Forza
A Palermo appeals court on Thursday issued its explanation
for a March verdict for Mafia association by a former close aide
of Berlusconi's, ex-Senator Marcello Dell'Utri.
Dell'Utri sealed "a pact of protection" with Cosa Nostra
for Berlusconi at a meeting in May 1974, according to the
explanation of the seven-year sentence.
That meeting "formed the genesis of the relationship that
linked the businessman (Berlusconi) and the Mafia with
Dell'Utri's mediation".
Dell'Utri, 71, is appealing against the conviction to the
supreme Court of Cassation.
In Italy convictions are not considered definitive until
the two-tier appeals process has been exhausted.
The March verdict was the result of a retrial after the
Cassation said Dell'Utri's legal rights were not respected in
the previous appeal.
The court ruling said Dell'Utri was the intermediary with
Cosa Nostra for the ex-premier, handing on "substantial sums" of
money for protection.
The explanation also reiterated that Berlusconi had hired
an alleged stable manager, the late Mafia member Vittorio
Mangano, not for his knowledge of horses but to provide
Former Senator Dell'Utri is the former head of the media
magnate's advertising arm who is credited with creating the
three-time premier's first party, Forza Italia, in 1993, six
months before it swept to victory in general elections.

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