Berlusconi: Don’t blame me if cabinet collapses

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
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.

"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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