Venerdì, 19 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Senate panel meets over stripping Berlusconi of seat

English
© ANSA

(By Kate Carlisle)
Rome, September 9 - The delicate balance of
Italy's cobbled left-right government may be nearing a tipping
point before long as deliberations by a Senate panel on whether
to strip former premier Silvio Berlusconi of his parliamentary
seat began on Monday.
While Premier Enrico Letta has said he is confident
Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party will not
sink the government if the media magnate is sent into the
political hinterland due to a tax-fraud conviction, the PdL has
threatened to pull the plug on Letta's grand-coalition
government if the Democratic Party (PD) carries through with its
stated intention to strip him of his Senate seat.
But the premier, whose executive was made possible by an
unprecedented alliance between traditional foes in the PD and
PdL in April after two months of deadlock followed February's
inconclusive general election, said he was optimistic the
government would not fall.
"I'm sure that the PdL will decide for the best," Letta, a
PD member, told the BBC.
"I don't think it will leave the coalition. I don't know
what will happen with the internal debate (within the PdL), but
I'm working with the certainty that the government will continue
to work and the parties will keep supporting the government".
It may take more than a month for the Senate to reach a
final decision on whether to strip Berlusconi of his seat after
the supreme court upheld a four-year tax-fraud conviction
against him last month - three years of which have been commuted
because of an amnesty - making it definitive.
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.
The three-time premier risks losing his parliamentary seat
under the terms of an anti-corruption law approved in 2012,
which bans anyone with a conviction of at least two years, 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 PdL as "quibbling" and says the law must be applied to
Berlusconi as it would be to anyone else.
Berlusconi has appealed to Italy's Constitutional Court and
the European Court of Human Rights against the ban from the
tax-fraud conviction, which he blames, like his many other
cases, on persecution by magistrates he says are left-wing.

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