Italian senate committee votes to expel Berlusconi
Final ruling on expulsion of former prime minister to be voted on within next 20 days
Silvio Berlusconi appears headed for expulsion from the Italian senate, in the process being stripped of his parliamentary immunity. Photograph: Reuters/Tony Gentile
This has not been a good week for former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Just two days after he effected an abrupt and embarrassing U-turn in order to avoid a PDL party split, in the process failing to bring down the Enrico Letta-led coalition government, he suffered another, less surprising reverse yesterday when a senate committee voted to expel him from the house.
Yesterday’s decision means that the senate itself will now face a dramatic vote, within the next 20 days, when the chamber is called on to issue the final ruling on the expulsion question. Even if he were to survive that vote – it will almost certainly be a secret vote – Mr Berlusconi still seems likely to be expelled from the Senate, sooner rather than later.
Yesterday’s committee vote was prompted by the so-called Severino law which calls for the expulsion of any parliamentarian who has received a prison sentence of more than two years. On August 1st, the Supreme Court confirmed Mr Berlusconi’s June conviction for tax fraud, a ruling which had seen him sentenced to four years in prison. The June conviction also banned him from public office for three years.
The length of that ban from public office is now being considered by a Milan court but it seems more than probable that in the end it will be imposed, even if not for three years.
So Mr Berlusconi seems headed for expulsion, in the process being stripped of his parliamentary immunity. Not surprisingly, this is something that reportedly worries him greatly since he fears more investigations, perhaps even his arrest, further down the road.
With commentators queuing up to write his political obituary, Mr Berlusconi has withdrawn to consider his position. Late on Thursday, he met PDL party secretary Angelino Alfano, his long-designated political dauphin and one of those who led Thursday’s unprecedented revolt against his normally unchallenged leadership.
It is reported that the two men mended a variety of fences. Mr Berlusconi badly needs the undivided support of his own party, while Mr Alfano is clearly reluctant to break away from the PDL to form yet another “new” Italian political party.
Mr Alfano has emerged much the stronger from a dramatic week in Italian politics.
He may now take a more prominent role in the running of a party where his title of “secretary” has until now seemed meaningless, given that all the important decisions (such as the attempt to bring down the Letta government this week) were taken by Mr Berlusconi.
Asked about the political future of Mr Berlusconi, experienced former Christian Democrat and current centrist party leader Pier Ferdinando Casini told daily La Repubblica yesterday: “In the traditional sense, he has no future. However, he is a man of great capacity who has the means [TV channels] with which to influence public opinion”. The jury is still out.