Senate vote on Berlusconi unlikely before November: party official

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 15, 2013 11:57 AM
Senate vote on Berlusconi unlikely before November: party official

ROME (Reuters) - The Italian Senate is unlikely to vote on expelling center-right leader Silvio Berlusconi from parliament over his tax fraud conviction until at least November, an official in the media tycoon's People of Freedom (PDL) party said on Tuesday.

Losing his seat in the Senate would deprive Berlusconi, who is fighting a conviction for paying for sex with a minor among other legal cases, of his parliamentary immunity from arrest.

A special Senate committee opened the way earlier this month for a motion to expel Berlusconi to be put before the upper house for a full vote in the chamber but no date has been set.

It had been expected that the vote could take place in mid-October but a crowded parliamentary timetable for the second half of the month is unlikely to allow a vote on Berlusconi, said Maurizio Gasparri, PDL deputy Senate floor leader.

"We did not consider the issue," Gasparri told reporters after a meeting with party floor leaders to set the agenda for the rest of this month.

The Senate is dominated by Berlusconi opponents from both the left and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and is expected to vote to strip him of his seat in the upper house under a law which bans convicted criminals from parliament.

The decision over Berlusconi's future has been one of the most sensitive issues facing parliament since the billionaire television mogul was convicted of tax fraud in August and sentenced to four years' jail, commuted to one year of house arrest or community service.

Center-left Prime Minister Enrico Letta's awkward coalition with the PDL came close to falling when Berlusconi pulled his ministers out of the government last month. The stated reason for the break was a disagreement over tax policy but the weeks of tension over his impending expulsion helped poison the climate in the broad left-right coalition.

Explaining the Left: Part II
Dennis Prager

The issue may be to some extent only symbolic because Berlusconi is likely in any case to be expelled from parliament after an appeal court rules on the other part of his sentence, a five year ban on holding public office.

The court is due to issue its ruling on Saturday, and is widely expected to reduce the ban to no more than three years.

(Reporting by Roberto Landucci; writing by James Mackenzie; editing by Andrew Roche)