'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

 

Milan

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
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
ebooks
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
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence