Venerdì, 21 Settembre 2018
ROME

PdL claims Renzi's cocky call means PD wants snap vote

English
© ANSA

(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, September 16 - Silvio Berlusconi's People of
Freedom (PdL) party claimed Monday a cocky election prediction
by the leader-in-waiting of their uneasy coalition partners in
the Democratic Party (PD) means the PD wants to vote the media
magnate out of the Senate and hurry Italy to the polls.
The PdL and PD have been tangled in a war of words - which
some observers have called a phony war but others say poses an
imminent threat to Premier Enrico Letta's unprecedented
right-left government - ever since Berlusconi's first definitive
conviction on August 1 in his 20-year struggle with a judiciary
he claims is left-wing and biased.
The four-year term - cut to one by an amnesty - mandates an
automatic ban from office under an anti-corruption law voted in
by the PD and PdL last year to help counter widespread public
disgust at a slew of scandals.
Despite its already being applied to over 20 local cases,
the PdL now claims it is against the Italian Constitution
because the tax fraud Berlusconi was found guilty of took place
years before the conviction, thus making the ban allegedly
retroactive.
The PD has dismissed this argument and says it will vote to
eject Berlusconi from the Senate in accordance with the law,
first on a Senate panel set to recommend action this week and,
later this month, in the full Senate vote requited to ratify the
ban.
The PdL says it will pull the plug on Letta if the PD votes
to boot out its leader.
It says that will be the PD's fault for having stuck to an
allegedly hostile and over-literal interpretation of the law out
of an unconquerable urge to put a judicial end to a rival they
have rarely defeated politically.
The PD, responds, in turn, that insists no one is above the
law and the PdL must shoulder the responsibility for sparking a
government crisis that Italians do not want.
Florence Mayor Matteo Renzi, tipped as a shoo-in for the
centre-left's party's leadership when it votes a new head later
this year, said Sunday Berlusconi's party would "obviously" be
to blame if Letta is toppled by the PdL withdrawing support to
prove its loyalty to its charismatic boss.
But if the country goes to the polls less than a year after
February's inconclusive election, he said, the PD would "tarmac
over" the PdL in a crushing win as voters penalise the PdL for
its "irresponsibility".
Various PdL heavyweights accused Renzi of being
over-confident Monday, and claimed his "cocky" prediction meant
the PD is spoiling for a fight and wants to go to the country
despite the damage this would do to the economy and Italy's
efforts to keep inside EU deficit targets despite an inevitable
spike in borrowing costs that would come with a government
crisis.
"Renzi's words are the proof the PD wants elections," said
former Senate Speaker Renato Schifani.
He was backed by former minister Stefania Prestigiacomo, who
said "the PD is showing its true colours", and one of
Berlusconi's most vehement defenders, Daniela Santanché, who
said Renzi "is getting too big for his boots, and he's the one
who's going to end up tarmacked".
Pier Ferdinando Casini, leader of a small ex-Christian
Democrat centrist party that joined former technocrat premier
Mario Monti's Civic Choice party, a junior partner in Letta's
government, also accused Renzi of being too brash and
provocative, saying he had increased the likelihood of a crisis.
A snap vote, Casini said, would "tarmac over the country",
killing a nascent recovery from Italy's longest postwar
recession.
Renzi was undaunted, quipping that, as Florence mayor, "we
have tarmacked 132 kilometres of road so I would just be
continuing the work".
Amid the renewed tensions, Letta said he had received a
bottle of holy water from the Catholic shrine at Lourdes as he
continues what he has called a "huge effort" to keep the unruly
coalition together.
Beppe Grillo, leader of the anti-establishment 5-Star
Movement (M5S) whose surprisingly big success in the February
election and refusal to talk to the PD forced a two-month
stalemate, has suggested some in the PD might even prefer the
government's survival to sinking their archenemy in the secret
of the Senate voting booth.
He is calling for an open vote.

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