Vote could see collapse of Italian coalition
Minister faces no-confidence vote in senate over deportation scandal
Italian prime minister Enrico Letta holds a joint news conference with British prime minister David Cameron (right) in 10 Downing Street on Wednesday. Photograph: Andrew Winning - WPA Pool/Getty Images
The three-month-old coalition government of Enrico Letta faces a potentially life-threatening moment in the Italian senate today when the house votes on a no-confidence motion calling for the resignation of interior minister Angelino Alfano, a close associate of ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In an incident that might have been scripted by John Le Carré and which has prompted the concern of Amnesty International, more than 50 police raided a luxury villa in the Rome residential suburb of Casal Palocco on the night of May 28th. They were looking for Mr Ablyazov, apparently at the request of Kazakh diplomats who had told the interior ministry he was wanted in Kazakhstan on fraud and organised crime charges. The Italian police did not find Mr Ablyazov but did find, and arrested, his wife and her daughter.
Three days later, mother and daughter were transported back to Kazakhstan in a private jet hired by the Kazakh government and containing various Kazakh diplomats.
Critics suspect that the Italian government, in particular the Berlusconi PDL element in the government, may have wanted to gain favour from energy-rich Kazakhstan by allowing the highly irregular rendition of Ms Shalamayeva.
As a result, the M5S protest movement and the far-left SEL party have tabled today’s no-confidence motion.
The police claimed Ms Shalamayeva’s documents were illegal, but a later investigation showed she had a perfectly legal Kazakh passport.
Last Friday the Italian government rescinded the deportation order.
In what seems like a farcical explanation, senior police authorities, in a statement read in parliament on Tuesday by Mr Alfano, claimed they were unaware of the dissident status of Ms Shalamayeva’s husband.
Opposition politicians have pointed out that even a 30-second Google search would have apprised them of the fact Mr Ablyazov is a former Kazakh energy minister who has become a bitter critic of Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
In November 2001, Mr Ablyazov and others founded the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan, an opposition political movement that challenged the authoritarian Nazarbayev regime. President since 1990, Mr Nazarbayev was returned to office with a 95 per cent share of the vote in April 2011 in an election considered “unfair and irregular” by international observers.
As a result of his opposition, Mr Ablyazov fled Kazakhstan in 2009, was granted political asylum in the UK after his BTA bank had been declared insolvent, and was subsequently nationalised. His current whereabouts are unknown.
On the no-confidence vote, elements in the centre-left Democratic Party, the main coalition partners of the centre-right PDL, had threatened to break rank and vote with the opposition.
And the PDL have made it clear that if a no-confidence motion in Mr Alfano is passed, they will bring down the government.
The government’s survival needs may override the PDL’s moral angst – but it could be a hot and sticky day in the senate.