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Silvio Berlusconi's former protégé seals split from the boss with two words

Angelino Alfano said he was not betraying the mogul’s legacy, but would be 'Diversamente Berlusconiano' – Berlusconi-esque in a different way

Silvio Berlusconi’s key lieutenant Angelino Alfano this week uttered a phrase that will be remembered for a very long time in Italian politics.

After being accused of treason by Berlusconi loyalists for leading the rebellion against the three-time premier, the Secretary of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty (Pdl) party and the tycoon’s former protege replied he was not betraying the mogul’s legacy, but would be “Diversamente Berlusconiano” – Berlusconi-esque in a different way.

This slipperiness and independence seemed a long way from the Angelino Alfano voters once knew merely as a Berlusconi Yes man. It was Mr Alfano, a 42-year-old Sicilian lawyer, who twice tried as justice secretary in previous Berlusconi governments to introduce immunity laws for  the disgraced tycoon that were dismissed as unconstitutional by senior judges.

Berlusconi thanked him for his efforts by indicating that Mr Alfano was his heir apparent. But he later dropped him like a stone, not too long after the PdL lost its stronghold of Sicily – and Mr Alfano’s home land – in regional elections  in 2011.

On Saturday, Mr Alfano and the PdL’s four other ministers in the coalition government obliged when Berlusconi demanded they resign. But Premier Enrique Letta rejected their resignations, and amid murmers of dissent, several proved that they had more loyalty to the government than their party leader.

In leading the rebellion against Berlusconi’s plan to sink the Letta government, perhaps Alfano the moderate centre-right dove has emerged. Maybe it was paybck time. Or, perhaps, as some have suggested, as Italy’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, Mr Alfano has got used to being in power.

A grey, untelligenic personality, Mr Alfano will never be another Berlusconi, despite his celebrated remark on his different direction. But for now, he’s got everyone’s attention.