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
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?