Berlusconi faces party revolt over move against Italy coalition
Embattled Italian prime minister may yet survive confidence vote
Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta (right) looks on next to Interior minister Angelino Alfano in Rome. Photograph: Reuters.
As cracks in the ranks of Silvio Berlusconi’s People Of Freedom (PDL) party appeared yesterday, it is now possible that, against all the odds, embattled Italian prime minister Enrico Letta may yet ride out this most recent Italian government crisis.
Following Mr Berlusconi’s decision last Saturday to withdraw his five PDL ministers in the PDL-PD coalition government, it had seemed certain that the Letta government would fall when both Houses of Parliament assemble today.
However, yesterday evening senior PDL figure and ex-minister Carlo Giovanardi said that at least 40 members of the Berlusconi party were ready to form their own new party, Nuovo Italia, and that they would vote in favour of the Letta government. This would defy Mr Berlusconi who has called on the PDL to vote Mr Letta out of office within the next week.
Mr Giovanardi’s comments were the first public confirmation of widespread speculation over the last three days that senior PDL figures, including ministers, disagreed with Mr Berlusconi’s decision to pull the plug on the five-month-old coalition government.
Three of the ministers – deputy prime minister Angelino Alfano, health minister Beatrice Lorenzin and transport minister Maurizio Lupi – all complained over the weekend that the PDL party, and by extension Mr Berlusconi, have been hijacked by extremist elements in the party.
In theory, Mr Berlusconi has prompted this crisis because of a 1 per cent point rise in VAT, decided at a bad-tempered cabinet meeting last Friday.
In practice, Mr Berlusconi is trying to pull the plug because of his impending judicial problems, including his explusion from parliament, in the wake of the June supreme court ruling which convicted him of tax fraud by his Mediaset TV group.
It may be no coincidence that both Carlo Giovannardi and Maurizio Lupi come from the Catholic wing of the PDL, with the former an ex-Christian Democrat and the latter a leading light in the prominent Italy lay movement, Comunione E Liberazione.
Yesterday, the Vatican daily, L’Osservatore Romano, issued a critical comment on the current crisis, pointing an accusatory finger at Mr Berlusconi: “This is a crisis that seems to have been brought about irresponsibly, not just because of its economic repercussions, but also because of its impact on the entire Italian political class . . . The current political climate is strongly influenced by the judicial problems of the leader of the PDL.
“The real danger is that the fabric of rules which regulate civil society could be definitively jeopardised,” it said.