• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Date set for Berlusconi politics ban debate

AFP/The Local · 9 Sep 2013, 17:01

Published: 09 Sep 2013 17:01 GMT+02:00

The announcement follows a landmark supreme court ruling on August 1st that turned down Berlusconi's final appeal against a tax fraud conviction and upheld a 12-month sentence. A hearing next month will decide whether he should be committed to house arrest or community service, while an appeals court will rule on whether the former prime minister should be banned from holding public office for one to three years.

Berlusconi's legal woes were also discussed by Italian lawmakers on Monday, as politicians began hearings to decide whether he should be expelled from parliament following his criminal conviction in an unprecedented case that has stoked political tensions.

Berlusconi's defiance over the possible sanction is unique in Europe's recent political history and threatens the coalition between his People of Freedom (PdL) and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD).

As the eurozone's third biggest economy struggles to exit a recession that has led to record unemployment, the 76-year-old former prime minister and billionaire tycoon has once again taken the political centre stage.

A Senate committee began its meeting to discuss his ejection, even though stalling tactics from Berlusconi's supporters could drag the process on for months before a compulsory final Senate vote.

The meeting began with a lengthy statement in Berlusconi's defence by PdL senator Andrea Augello.

Berlusconi has complained that a new law against criminals in parliament adopted last year with the aim of cleaning up Italian politics and approved with votes from his own party in fact violates his rights.

The three-time premier has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, arguing that the law should not apply for convictions relating to crimes committed before its adoption, as in his case.

The law would also prevent Berlusconi from taking part in the next general election set for 2018.

The PD's leadership has said it will vote to apply the law but the PdL argues that Berlusconi should receive "political freedom of movement" since he leads a party for which millions of Italians have voted.

Some of Berlusconi's critics have pleaded with him to resign voluntarily and spare Italy more embarrassment.

PD leader Guglielmo Epifani has warned that Italy risks looking like a "banana republic" internationally.

Nichi Vendola, leader of the leftist SEL party, said the case is "unique for a Western democracy".

Berlusconi could lead his party from outside parliament but expulsion would be a blow as he has been a lawmaker ever since entering politics in 1994.

Story continues below…

Most experts agree that Berlusconi's supporters are unlikely to bring down the government, even though they have repeatedly threatened to do so if their leader is expelled from parliament.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta warned on Sunday that political instability "carries a cost" but said he did not believe the PdL would abandon the coalition.

Financial markets have held up relatively well and the FTSE Mib stock market index was up 0.55 percent during trading on Monday, while borrowing costs fell in an indication of improved investor confidence.

But tensions are still bound to rise as Berlusconi has shown no sign of backing down even though some of his aides have advocated a more humble approach that could earn him a pardon from the Italian presidency.

The government was forged between the rival PD and PdL parties after a two-month deadlock following a general election in February that failed to give any party a ruling majority in parliament.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.it)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Italian feared dead in Norway helicopter crash
Rescue forces work at the shore west of Bergen, Norway after a helicopter transporting 13 oil workers crashed. Photo: Rune Nielsen/NTB Scanpix/AFP

The helicopter was returning from the Gullfaks B platform, in one of Norway's biggest offshore oil fields.

Germany tells Italy to stem migrant flow to north Europe
Germany's interior minister has told Italy to do more to stop migrants arriving in northern Europe. Photo: Giovanni Isolino/AFP

"What is happening in Brenner depends above all on the Italians."

Joe  Biden takes 'Moonshot' cancer campaign to Vatican
US Vice President Joe Biden (C) has taken his cancer campaign to the Vatican. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

The US Vice President lost his son to cancer last year.

Niqab-wearing tourist stopped from entering Italian museum
A niqab-wearing tourist was prevented from entering a museum in Padua. Photo: Fixers/Flicker

The Saudi Arabian woman was visiting the museum while on holiday with her husband in northeast Italy.

7 breathtaking alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
Cala Rossa on Sicily's Favagnana island. Photo: Lula1977

If you're planning a trip to Italy - or are lucky enough to live here - then get away from the maddening crowds with a visit to one of these gems.

Cheese, wine and family: the Italian way to live beyond 100
There are 19,000 people over 100 in Italy, what's their secret? Photo: Sergio Pani/Flickr

What can we learn from Italy's 19,000 centenarians?

Milan play down crisis as shareholders rage
AC Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani has played down talks of a crisis amid repots of huge losses and ongoing takeover talks. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

The club reportedly lost €89 million last year.

Italy brands Austria's migrant fence 'a waste of money'
Italy has said Austrian plans to build a migrant fence at the Brenner Pass, pictured above, are a waste of money. Photo: Photo: Arnulf Zu Lindern/Wikimedia

The two countries have clashed over Austria's decision to close the Brenner Pass.

Animal activists buy shares in Prada to pursue ostrich fight
Animal rights group Peta has become a shareholder in Italy's Prada. Photo: Maddy Cheng/AFP

The animal rights group is protesting over Prada's ostrich leather handbags.

Concordia captain shirks blame at shipwreck appeal
Francesco Schettino is trying to avoid jail for his part in the Costa Concordia disaster. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Costa Concordia capitain, Francesco Schettino, was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year.

Sponsored Article
How to launch your international career
Lifestyle
It's a long life for Italians as number of centenarians triples
Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Culture
Mussolini museum project awakes demons of Italy's past
International
How real is the threat from dormant Isis cells in Italy?
Sponsored Article
What's the best way for expats to transfer money abroad?
Health
Homeless snub famous Italian chef's vegan dishes
Shakespeare and Italy: A literary love affair
Culture
Happy 70th Vespa! The history behind Italy's famous scooter
Piaggio
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The history of the Vespa, Italy's famous scooter
Lifestyle
The top five free smartphone apps for learning Italian
National
Italy dismisses beach terror plots report
Features
The strange history behind five everyday Italian words
Politics
Should Italy really be getting so cosy with Iran?
National
Are 500,000 cats the solution to Rome’s rat crisis?
Politics
Walls go up in Europe again: Austria raises 'migrant fence'
Lifestyle
The next Copenhagen? Bari plans €7.9m seafront revamp
Culture
Lost €120 million Caravaggio 'found in a leaky French attic'
National
Why Italian bookshops are snubbing a mobster's son
Locals first: Venice makes tourists wait for water buses
Italian island hits back at British anti-migrant headlines
Analysis & Opinion
Italian island hits back at British anti-migrant headlines
Italians pour scorn on French attempt to reinvent carbonara
National
Italians pour scorn on French attempt to reinvent
Italian town still empty seven years after deadly quake
National
Italian town still empty seven years after deadly quake
Education
Why Italy is mulling wine classes for schoolchildren
Migrants saved after 'crank calling' Rome pensioner
Culture
How Florence is coping with its 'foreign' food clamp down
2,567
jobs available