Sabato, 20 Aprile 2019
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Split within Berlusconi's party 'on hold'


(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, October 3 - A split within Silvio
Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party after rebel lawmakers
forced the ex-premier to back down over a government confidence
vote appeared to be on hold Thursday while peace talks take
place, although confusion reigned.
"The line of (forming) a new group is suspended," said
Senator Roberto Formigoni, the former governor of Lombardy and a
senior member of the dissidents.
Formigoni added that Berlusconi had been "open to dialogue"
during a meeting Thursday with Deputy Premier and Interior
Minister Angelino Alfano, who is also the PdL's secretary and
led the rebellion.
The Senator said that around 70 centre-right lawmakers were
ready to join the splinter group on Wednesday.
However, another senior PdL Senator, Carlo Giovanardi, said
the formation of a breakaway party would continue.
A split within the PdL had looked inevitable when a group
of PdL Senators told Berlusconi they would not obey orders to
vote against Wednesday's confidence motion.
This scuppered Berlusconi's bid to sink the coalition
government of Premier Enrico Letta, a member of the centre-left
Democratic Party (PD).
It was an unprecedented act in a party in which
Berlusconi's word had rarely been challenged.
It forced the 77-year-old media magnate to make an
embarrassing U-turn and tell his supporters to back the
government, just four days after provoking a political crisis by
pulling the PdL's ministers from Letta's administration.
Some commentators see it as the beginning of the end for
the dominant figure of Italian politics of the last two decades,
although Berlusconi has made several comebacks in the past when
he looked finished.
The confusion over whether the party will split is further
complicated by the fact that Berlusconi recently announced he
was launching a new group to replace the PdL, which would revert
to the former name, Forza Italia (FI).
Several moderates in the party said they would not leave
the PdL, while stressing that they would not join Berlusconi
loyalists in switching to FI either.
Alfano is critical of the so-called hawks in the PdL who
encouraged Berlusconi to try to sink the government in the
fallout of the decision by the supreme court in August to uphold
a tax-fraud conviction against Berlusconi.
The former premier says he is the victim of a 20-year-long
campaign of persecution by left-wing magistrates who are
allegedly trying to wipe him off the political landscape.
He is also furious that his foes-turned-alliance partners
in the PD are intent on voting for him to be stripped of his
Senate seat at a parliamentary panel on Friday and then on the
floor of the Upper House later this month following the
tax-fraud verdict.
But the PdL doves were against bringing down the left-right
government, which was cobbled together in April to end the long
deadlock after February's inconclusive general election, just as
Italy looks close to emerging from its longest recession in over
two decades.
Formigoni's comments suggest some sort of reconciliation is
being attempted within the party.
Some political pundits have suggested that Letta's
government will be stronger if the PdL does split and the
executive only relies on the support of the breakaway group,
rather than the whole centre-right party, even though this would
give it a more slender majority in the Senate.
The PdL's internal crisis was put on hold to some degree by
a migrant-boat disaster off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.
Berlusconi called off a meeting with PdL lawmakers on
Thursday and a joint press conference of the PdL's ministers was
also cancelled as Alfano flew to Lampedusa.

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