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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Berlusconi Verdict Raises Political Tensions In Italy

Berlusconi Verdict Raises Political Tensions In Italy

ROME (AFP) – A final judgment against former leader Silvio Berlusconi raised political tensions in Italy on Friday but left a fragile coalition in place for now amid a muted reaction on the financial markets.

“Government in danger,” said Il Messaggero daily, while Il Fatto Quotidiano said the uneasy alliance between Berlusconi’s centre-right and Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s centre-left was “a dead man walking”.

Although Berlusconi loyalists had threatened mass resignations if the ruling went against him, they have been more cautious following the verdict.

“Silvio Berlusconi’s legal woes will not be a problem for the government,” said Mara Carfagna from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party.

“This anger we all feel must not boil over,” she said.

The Milan stock market opened 0.14 percent higher and the difference between Italian and German 10-year sovereign bonds — a key measure of investor risk — narrowed to 266 points from 269 points on Thursday.

Shares in Berlusconi’s business empire Mediaset, however, fell over 4.0 percent at the start of trading.

The greater uncertainty is whether Letta will manage to contain growing discontent within his own Democratic Party about governing together with a coalition led by a confirmed tax fraudster.

Pippo Civati, a prominent party member, told La Repubblica daily that the government needed an “exit strategy” and that fresh elections should be held “within the next few months, not in two years”.

Some leftists have also called for the 76-year-old Berlusconi to be expelled from his seat in the Senate as soon as possible in line with new rules against lawmakers and candidates with criminal records.

The country’s highest court on Thursday handed the billionaire tycoon his first definitive conviction in a 20-year political career that has been dogged by legal woes and sex scandals.

The court ordered the three-time former prime minister to do a year of community service or be placed under house arrest once his parliamentary immunity is lifted — an unprecedented verdict for Italy.

The supreme court also said an appeals court should rule on whether he should be temporarily banned from public office, a decision that would eject Berlusconi from parliament for the first time since 1994.