Italian coalition rocked by new row over Silvio Berlusconi

Parliament suspended following court decision that could put PDL leader out of office

Silvio Berlusconi is greeted by supporters after being found guilty of tax evasion. Photograph:  Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Silvio Berlusconi is greeted by supporters after being found guilty of tax evasion. Photograph: Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 01:00

The fledgling coalition government of Enrico Letta, which took office at the end of April, was last night jeopardised by a burgeoning row prompted by the never-ending judicial woes of media tycoon and PDL party leader, Silvio Berlusconi.

Mr Berlusconi’s PDL (People of Freedom) party, currently in government with the centre-left PD (Democratic Party), yesterday prompted outrage by calling for a suspension of parliament by way of response to the decision of Italy’s Supreme Court of Cassation to name an early date for the potentially all-decisive final appeal hearing of the ‘Mediaset’ case.

At both the original Mediaset trial and at the first appeal hearing of this case, Mr Berlusconi received a four-year sentence and a five-year ban from public office for tax evasion.


Sentences effective
If the Supreme Court were to uphold those verdicts at the end of the month, then the sentences would become immediately effective. Mr Berlusconi is most unlikely to be imprisoned, thanks partly to a law passed by a previous Berlusconi government, but he could well be forced out of political office and parliament.

Hence, the PDL faithful took to the warpath yesterday with one hawk, Deputy Daniela Santanche, announcing yesterday morning that if the PDs did not agree to a suspension of parliament later in the day, then “that would mean that there is no coalition government”. After much indecision, the PDs agreed to the Berlusconi-PDL request, prompting angry protests.

Many of the M5S protest movement deputies and senators filed out of parliament whilst senior PD figure Rosy Bindi said being faithful to the coalition government does not entail “accepting attitudes of institutional eversion”. The long, hot summer of Italian politics is just beginning.