'We won't be blackmailed': Italy’s fragile coalition government close to collapse as centre-left prime minister Enrico Letta warns People of Freedom party that he won't buckle over Silvio Berlusconi



The collapse of Italy’s fragile coalition government appears to have moved a step closer with centre-left prime minister Enrico Letta warning Silvio Berlusconi’s conservatives that he would not “blackmailed” as they try to prevent the criminal tycoon from being kicked out of parliament.

Following the mogul’s definitive tax-fraud conviction earlier this month, a senate disciplinary committee, dominated by Berlusconi opponents, will meet in September to discuss his conviction. Under the “Severino law”, they are obliged to vote for the three-time premier’s expulsion from the Senate.

Leading members of Berlusconi’s Pdl (People of Freedom) Party, including ministers in the coalition, say they will pull the rug from under the government if their leader is evicted. One such Pdl parliamentarian, the Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano met with Mr Letta for three hours on Wednesday evening in an attempt to persuade Mr Letta to stop Berlusconi’s expulsion. But after the meeting, Premier Letta said: “I don’t accept blackmail or inadmissible ultimatums.”

In an interview this morning, Michaela Biancofiore, a Pdl MP and junior minister in the current coalition, said that the government would fall were Berlusconi expelled form parliament as the law demands.

But leading figures in the Democratic Party (Pd), already ill at ease working with the right-wing Pdl, appear determined to block any compromise regarding Berlusconi’s predicament.

The Pd minister and government whip Dario Franceschini said today: “Regarding the threats and the ultimatums, we only need to respond with a simple principle: do not barter legality and respect for the rules to prolong a government. Ever.”

The Pdl’s threat to pull the plug on the government comes amid first signs of a revival in Italy’s recession-mired economy. As a result, the centre-right has been accused by some of holding Italy to ransom, just when it needs a period of stable government.

Political pundit James Walston of the American University of Rome said: “A collapse of the government now would be disastrous. I think they will try and find a fudge, a way out. by delaying the vote in the Senate.”

Berlusconi, who is already facing a period of house arrest or community service for the tax fraud conviction, is thought to dread losing his Senate seat. Observers note that deprived of parliamentary protection, magistrates will find it much easier to arrest him for other crimes of which he is accused.

The new anti-corruption law that looks set to expel him from parliament was drafted by the leading criminal lawyer Paola Severino, in her role as justice minister in the previous Mario Monti government. Berlusconi supporters say it should not be applied retrospectively. But Ms Severino told La Repubblica newspaper this week that the legislation was clearly applied to crimes committed before it became law in December in 2012.

Berlusconi, in an interview with the conservative Catholic journal Tempi, attacked once again what he claimed was a left wing conspiracy against him. “They can’t take away my right to speak in the public arena,” he said. “They can’t take away the right to remain the point of reference for millions of Italians as long as this is want Italians want.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans is the favourite to replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear
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: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing