Italy grapples with fresh crisis after party quits coalition


Mon, Sep 30, 2013 - Page 1

Italy was mired in a new political quagmire yesterday after former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi pushed his party’s ministers to quit the fragile coalition government, a move Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta called a “crazy act.”

All five ministers from the People of Freedom (PDL) party on Saturday took the decision to step down at Berlusconi’s urging, said Italian Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, who was among the resignations.

Italian newspapers put the blame for the new government crisis squarely at Berlusconi’s feet.

“The convict has made Italy fail,” read the headline in the leftist daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, alluding to Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud.

The center-right La Stampa and business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore decried “the madness” of the actions taken by the media mogul who has dominated Italian politics for most of the last two decades.

The flamboyant billionaire dismissed as “unacceptable” a demand by Letta on Friday for parliament to express support for the government this week, in a bid to end a crisis that has plagued the bickering ruling coalition.

Now Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will have to mediate to find a way out of the latest political impasse. He was expected to meet Letta yesterday.

Letta’s government was cobbled together following a two-month stand-off after an inconclusive general election in February. The premier of the center-left Democratic Party (PD) had won the confidence of financial markets by keeping the improbable right-left coalition together.

Italian media yesterday speculated that if the crisis deepens there could be a reversal in market confidence, making it harder for Italy to deal with its economic difficulties and enact reforms.

The revolt among Berlusconi’s backers boiled over on Thursday when they first threatened to resign over his legal problems.

A Senate committee was preparing to vote on whether to eject Berlusconi from the chamber after he was sentenced to a year in prison for tax fraud, a ruling that was upheld by Italy’s top court last month.