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POLITICS

Berlusconi: Don’t blame me if cabinet collapses

Italy's billionaire former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Thursday it was not his fault if ministers from his party wanted to pull out of the cabinet over his tax fraud conviction.

Berlusconi: Don't blame me if cabinet collapses
Silvio Berlusconi has said it is not his fault if ministers pull out of the cabinet. Photo: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP

"They will say it is my fault if ministers from the PDL are weighing their resignations," Berlusconi said in an interview with Catholic weekly Tempi.

The former prime minister received his first definitive conviction this month when the supreme court upheld a sentence of 12 months house arrest which could trigger his expulsion from parliament.

The ruling has raised tensions within an uneasy coalition whose two main members are the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and its historic arch-rival, Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party.

There are five PDL ministers in the government.

The PD has said it will vote to eject Berlusconi from the Senate following the conviction in accordance with new rules to get criminals out of parliament but the PDL questions whether these apply to Berlusconi.

"I ask myself if two friends are in a boat and one of them throws the other into the sea whose fault is it if the boat then drifts off course," Berlusconi said.

He also reiterated his objection to the conviction saying it was a "judicial massacre" against a politician "elected by millions of Italians".

He said he had been "deprived of freedom of speech".

Berlusconi has been a member of parliament since 1994 when the billionaire tycoon first entered politics, becoming a headline act for the next two decades.

Berlusconi has kept a relatively low public profile since leading a rally against the sentence outside his lavish house in Rome on August 4th, in a summer month in which many Italians are on beachside holidays.

The court issued its landmark ruling on August 1st.

A Senate committee charged with debating whether Berlusconi should be ejected from the chamber is due to meet on September 9th, even though a vote by the chamber as a whole is required for the sanction to be approved because of parliamentary immunity rules.

"They can do what they want with me but they cannot deprive me of three things: the right to express myself on Italy's political and civil scene, the right to guide the political movement I founded and the right to continue to be a reference for millions of Italians," Berlusconi said in the interview.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

An Italian centre-left election pact broke down on Sunday just days after it was formed, leaving the path to power clear for the hard-right coalition.

Italy’s hard right set for election victory after left-wing alliance collapses

The alliance between Italian centre-left parties was left in disarray on Sunday night, potentially meaning a landslide victory for the hard-right coalition at early general elections in September.

The leader of the centrist Azione party withdrew support for the left-wing coalition led by the Democratic Party (PD) just five days after the two joined forces, saying it could not work with left-wingers brought in to boost the alliance.

Carlo Calenda, leader of Azione, withdrew his support on Sunday after PD made another pact with smaller left-wing parties including the radical Sinistra Italiana, and new green party Europa Verde.

“You cannot explain (to voters) that to defend the constitution you make a pact with people you know you will never govern with,” Calenda told newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The news was greeted with jubilation by hard-right League leader Matteo Salvini, who tweeted: “On the left chaos and everyone against everyone!”

Giorgia Meloni, leader of the neofascist Brothers of Italy party (FdI) mocked a “new twist in the soap opera of the centre-left.”

READ ALSO: Italy to choose ‘Europe or nationalism’ at election, says PD leader

Analyists predict the centre-left split could hand the right-wing bloc a landslide victory at the election on September 25th, with Meloni tipped to become Italy’s first female prime minister.

Italy’s political system favours coalitions, and while Meloni has a strong alliance with Salvini’s League and Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Letta is struggling to bring together the disparate  progressive parties.

The PD is neck and neck with Brothers of Italy in the latest opinion polls, but even in partnership with Azione, the group most recently polled at 33.6 percent, compared with 46.4 percent for the right.

Political commentators said the only hope PD has now of posing a credible threat to the right-wing alliance would be by partnering with the Five Star Movement.

READ ALSO: Why has Italy’s government collapsed in the middle of summer?

However, Letta has repeatedly said this is out of the question, as he blames M5S for triggering the political crisis that brought down Mario Draghi’s broad coalition government.

“Either PD eats its hat and seeks alliance with M5S to defeat the right-wing coalition, or it’s hard to see how the right can possibly lose the forthcoming election,” Dr Daniele Albertazzi, a politics professor at the University of Surrey in England, tweeted on Sunday.

Early elections were called after Draghi resigned in late July. His government currently remains in place in a caretaker role.

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