Italian Senate committee backs motion to expel Berlusconi from parliament


Sun, Oct 06, 2013 - Page 6

An Italian Senate committee on Friday approved a motion for former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi to be expelled from parliament following his criminal conviction, dealing a further humiliating blow to the embattled billionaire tycoon.

The senators, most of them leftist opponents of Berlusconi, voted 15 for and eight against and the motion now goes to the full Senate for final approval expected later this month.

After hours of talks, the head of the committee, Senator Dario Stefano, said it had “decided by a majority to propose that the Senate assembly debate invalidating the election of Senator Berlusconi.”

The procedure could add to the political tensions in Italy that threatened to topple the uneasy coalition government earlier in the week and sent shock waves through the financial markets.

Ejection from the Senate would mean Berlusconi being out of parliament for the first time since 1994, when the media and construction magnate first burst onto Italy’s political scene.

Berlusconi said the decision showed “a specific desire to eliminate through judicial means a political adversary who has not been eliminated at the ballot box through democratic means.”

“When you violate a state of laws, you hit the heart of democracy,” he said in a Facebook post.

Senator Daniele Capezzone, another pro-Berlusconi lawmaker, said: “The Senate committee has written a very black page for Italian democracy.”

However, Senator Isabella De Monte from the center-left Democratic Party, one of those who voted to eject Berlusconi, said: “Whoever talks about a political verdict does not know the law.”

Berlusconi supporters in the committee had tried to stall the proceedings, which began last month.

Berlusconi allies have said he could continue to lead his party even out of parliament, but analysts say his failed challenge to Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta shows he has lost control of the party.

Berlusconi said on Saturday last week that he was pulling his ministers out of the government and pushing for early elections but the ministers themselves and other once loyal allies balked and he was forced into a U-turn in parliament on Wednesday.

Some People of Freedom lawmakers have said they could break off and set up their own grouping in parliament, although the 77-year-old Berlusconi has played down divisions, saying: “I see an absolutely united party with some internal differences.”

Italy’s Supreme Court on Aug. 1 turned down Berlusconi’s second and final appeal against a tax fraud ruling, handing him his first definitive conviction in many years of legal woes.

A judge in Milan is due to decide this month whether Berlusconi should serve the one-year prison sentence he received as part of the conviction as house arrest or community service.