Silvio Berlusconi lifts threat to pull plug on coalition

Former PM acts after his media company loses €150m in stock market instability


The former Italian premier, Silvio Berlusconi, has called off his political attack dogs after their threats to bring down Italy’s fragile coalition government appeared to panic the stock market and wipe €150m off the value of shares in one of his companies in just four hours.

The billionaire media mogul’s conviction for tax fraud was upheld earlier this month, as was his subsequent four-year prison sentence and ban from public office. The Senate – in which Berlusconi holds a seat – must confirm his ban from public office before it can take effect, which has meant lengthy political wrangling as his allies attempt to block the confirmation. His opponents, meanwhile, say the definitive conviction means Berlusconi’s eviction from parliament is a legal requirement.

With senior members of Berlusconi’s PDL (People of Freedom) Party – including some in ministerial positions – saying the coalition will fall without a get-out for the three-time premier, and with the centre-left refusing to countenance such a move, panic took hold of Milan’s stock exchange. Many economists have said stable government is vital to maintain the first signs of economic recovery. 

The share price of Berlusconi’s Mediaset company fell over 6 per cent on Monday, at which point he called on his colleagues to stop the threats, which the centre-left premier Enrico Letta described last week as “blackmail”.

In a widely reported note to senior PDL figures, Berlusconi said: “I would ask everyone not to supply any more declarations or interviews that can be manipulated to fuel the polemic and harm internal cohesion.”

The centre-left Repubblica newspaper said that “the thud on the Stock Exchange” had convinced Berlusconi that it was time to silence his PDL colleagues, in particular the outspoken MP Daniela Santanche, who has led calls to pull the plug on the coalition.

This would not be the first time Berlusconi has taken political action to shield his business interests. Pundits have long said he entered the political arena almost two decades ago to protect his companies from left-wing politicians who wanted to dismantle them, as well as to escape prosecution for other charges.

In November 2011, Berlusconi quit his third term as premier in order, many analysts believe, to save his Mediaset mass media empire from speculators after it lost 20 per cent of value in five days in the face of the mounting sovereign debt crisis – over which he had presided.

The threat to expel Berlusconi from the Senate is not the only obstacle to the continued survival of the Letta administration.

Ministers will meet today to discuss the controversial IMU tax on main residences, which the centre-right insists must be scrapped if it is to continue supporting the government. There has been no agreement on where to find the €4bn a year it would take to abolish the tax.

The Finance Minister, Fabrizio Saccomanni, has said the country’s precarious finances cannot absorb the cost of cancelling it. Last year, Italy’s vast public debt passed the €2trn mark, making it extremely vulnerable to changes in borrowing costs.

Italy’s upper house is due to discuss expelling Berlusconi from the Senate next month. First the Senate committee for immunity and elections will discuss the issue on 9 September.

Its recommendation will then be passed to the entire upper chamber, which will vote on the expulsion. Berlusconi’s opponents have a majority in both the committee and the Senate as a whole.

Political observers note that in addition to the humiliation of being kicked out of parliament, the mogul would be more vulnerable to arrest for other suspected crimes.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • 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

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before