Berlusconi expelled from Italian parliament over tax fraud
ROME - Reuters
Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi delivers a speech outside his private residence, the Palazzo Grazioli, on Nov. 27, hours before the Senate's voting. AFP photoThe Italian Senate expelled Silvio Berlusconi over his tax fraud conviction on Nov. 27, drawing a defiant response from the veteran centre-right leader who vowed to continue leading his party and fight on outside parliament.
The vote, after months of political wrangling, opens an uncertain new phase in Italian politics, with the 77-year-old media billionaire preparing to use all his extensive resources to attack Prime Minister Enrico Letta's coalition government.
"We are here on a bitter day, a day of mourning for democracy," Berlusconi told several thousand supporters from his Forza Italia party in front of his residence in central Rome as the Senate voted only a few hundred yards away.
Berlusconi, who has dominated politics in Italy for two decades, has already pulled his party out of Letta's coalition after seven months in government, accusing leftwing opponents of mounting a "coup d'etat" to eliminate him.
Stripped of his parliamentary immunity from arrest, he is more vulnerable in a series of other cases, where he is accused of offences including political bribery and paying for sex with a minor.
'I'm not going to retire to some convent'
Under a law passed with Berlusconi's support last year, politicians convicted of serious criminal offences are ineligible for parliament, but his expulsion had to be confirmed by a full vote in the Senate.
The court sentenced him to four years in jail, commuted to a year likely to be spent performing community service. He was also banned from holding public office for two years, preventing any immediate return to government.
Both Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and former comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement rejected a series of motions challenging the move.
In a characteristic piece of political theatre, Berlusconi addressed a rally of supporters outside his Rome residence as the vote was taking place, underlining that he will remain a troublesome opponent to the government even outside parliament.
"I'm not going to be retiring to some convent," he told supporters. "We're staying here!"
Much like Grillo, who does not sit in parliament but who keeps up a steady stream of attacks in public meetings and on his widely read blog, Berlusconi is almost certain to mount a sustained campaign against the government in the run-up to the European parliamentary elections in May.
Berlusconi joined Letta's Democratic Party in an unlikely coalition after the February election left no side able to form a government on its own.
But relations were rocky from the start and were worsened by rows over tax policy and tensions over Berlusconi's tax fraud conviction in August.