Cabinet backs Berlusconi in row with judge

THE ITALIAN cabinet met in special session yesterday to decide its official reply to the unprecedented attack launched on the Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, by one of the country's most senior anti-corruption judges.

The judge, Francesco Saverio Borrelli, has sought to defuse the row, over a newspaper interview in which he hinted that corruption investigations into Mr Berlusconi's business empire could soon implicate the Prime Minister, by stating that no formal notice of investigation is being prepared.

The cabinet yesterday decided to adopt a motion of censure of the judge which will be passed to the Italian President, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. As head of the judiciary, the President could force Mr Borrelli's resignation. The involvement of the President is also a measure of the constitutional implications of the festering hostility between this administration and the anti-corruption judges based in Milan.

Mr Borrelli had also accused the Justice Minister, Alfredo Biondi, of 'impertinence and bad taste' after the minister questioned the methods of the 'mani pulite' (clean hands) judges. 'Someone has said that they will expel me from the magistrature, but I'm already quite old, I have nothing to fear' the judge said yesterday.

The Prime Minister appears increasingly exasperated with his war of attrition with the judiciary. 'I am fed up with this continual burlesque; we will take measures,' Mr Berlusconi said yesterday. The forceful language of the censure motion gives a flavour of the fury within senior government circles at what is seen as arrogant meddling by the judiciary in the running of the country. The motion condemns 'the abuse and intimidation that the judiciary is using in an attempt to cow the government'.

In the typical style of Italian political theatre, once the immediate crisis has passed, the affair may quietly subside.

Far more serious is the festering conflict between judiciary and government. That friction is firmly rooted in the conflict of interest between Mr Berlusconi's pounds 4bn Fininvest business empire - the target of corruption investigations - and his political office. It is a conflict of interest the media tycoon has refused to resolve.

So compromised has the golden boy of politics become by his business links that the latest political conspiracy theory in Rome goes like this: Mr Berlusconi's neo-Fascist allies are supporting the anti- corruption judges hoping that they will gather enough evidence to serve the Prime Minister with a notice of investigation. In that case the neo-Fascists would dump him and persuade Antonio di Pietro - the anti-graft prosecutor - to take over as Prime Minister, leaving the allies as the driving force in government.

It sounds like the stuff of fantasy - Mr di Pietro has repeatedly stated that he has no interest in politics. That the theory had enough currency to make front page news when told to journalists by an opposition politician gives some indication of the precariousness of Mr Berlusconi's position. And it suggests why the Prime Minister has one more reason to regard his struggle with the judges as one of political life and death.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own