ROME, (Reuters) – An Italian Senate committee said yesterday former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi should be expelled from parliament due to his conviction for tax fraud, paving the way for a final decision this month that could seal his political fate.
The recommendation to kick out the man who has dominated Italian politics for the past two decades was taken by a cross-party committee of 23 Senators dominated by the centre-right leader’s political opponents.
Though not the final word, the committee’s decision marks a professional and personal defeat for the media tycoon who became one of Europe’s best-known and most colourful politicians. It comes on the heels of a humbling coup against Berlusconi from part of his own People of Freedom party (PDL).
The recommendation, passed by 15 votes to 8, must be ratified later this month by a vote of the full Senate, where Berlusconi’s supporters are also in a minority, before he loses the Senate seat he has held since February’s election.
“This shameful decision is not the result of a correct application of the law but of a desire to eliminate by judicial means a political opponent it was not possible to defeat democratically through the ballot box,” Berlusconi, who did not attend the hearing, said after the vote.
His allies in parliament were equally defiant.
“The axemen shouldn’t delude themselves, what is rolling on the floor is the title of senator, not the head of the man and the politician Berlusconi, who remains the leader and point of reference for half of the Italians,” said PDL lower house speaker Renato Brunetta.
The Senate proceedings cap a disastrous week for the 77-year-old billionaire, who was forced into a humiliating climb-down on Wednesday by a party revolt which made him back centre-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta in parliament.