Berlusconi threatens to bring down government


THE DAY after receiving a four-year prison sentence for tax evasion, former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi on Saturday threatened to bring down the government of technocrat Mario Monti.

In theory at least, Berlusconi still controls the majority of votes in the cross-party coalition which supports the unelected Mr Monti.

In a surprise move, the former prime minister held a hastily convened press conference at yet another of his private residences, Villa Gernetto, near Milan.

Looking and sounding angry in the wake of Friday’s court judgment, Berlusconi launched a tirade not only against the judiciary and the Monti government but also against German chancellor Angela Merkel and former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Commenting on the smiles exchanged by the two EU leaders when asked about Berlusconi during an EU summit news conference exactly a year ago, Berlusconi called their response “the political assassination of my international credibility”.

Berlusconi confirmed he would not stand for parliament again but said he would not be leaving politics. Instead, “over the next few days” he would consider whether or not to withdraw his party’s support from the Monti government which he criticised for slavishly following German diktats on austerity measures.

Mr Berlusconi’s outburst inevitably drew criticism from rival parties. More significantly however, a senior figure in his own People of Freedom party (PDL), Osvaldo Napoli, said the former prime minister had isolated himself, and that perhaps only 20 per cent of the PDL would be willing to follow his anti-Monti, anti-Germany populist line.