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Berlusconi should be ousted from Italian Senate, panel recommends

October 04, 2013|By Tom Kington
  • Silvio Berlusconi rubs his eyes after delivering a speech at the Italian Senate in Rome this week.
Silvio Berlusconi rubs his eyes after delivering a speech at the Italian… (Gregorio Borgia / Associated…)

ROME -- Silvio Berlusconi’s fading political career took another blow Friday when a committee in the Italian Senate recommended that he lose his seat in the upper house of Parliament after a conviction for tax fraud in August.

The full Senate will now decide by Oct. 14 whether to oust the 77-year-old media mogul and former prime minister from his seat.

Berlusconi’s week got off to a bad start when he failed to bring down Italy’s coalition government after dozens of lawmakers in his party threatened to desert him and back the government in a Senate confidence vote.

The rebellion forced Berlusconi to back the vote  himself in an attempt to prevent the disintegration of his party, which is part of the coalition government.

The rebellion was a harsh blow for Berlusconi, who created his party from scratch in the 1990s using his fortune and has promoted loyal supporters to key positions. Leading the rebellion against him this week was Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano, whom Berlusconi had groomed as his heir.

The Senate committee’s vote Friday, which took place after five hours of debate, was prompted by a law passed last year banning anyone sentenced to more than two years in prison from holding political office for six years.

Berlusconi’s party had backed passage of the law.

The three-time prime minister was sentenced to four years for tax fraud in August, although that was reduced to one year during sentencing due to an amnesty law.

He faces the choice between spending the next year under house arrest or performing social work, which will make it difficult for him to bring his party back under control.

By losing his Senate seat, he would also be more vulnerable to arrest by magistrates who are investigating whether he paid a senator the equivalent of $4 million to abandon the center-left in 2008 and join his party.

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Kington is a special correspondent.

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