(By Christopher Livesay)
(ANSA) - Rome, August 19 - Three-time premier Silvio
Berlusconi said Monday his leadership of the centre right would
not be threatened by his first definitive criminal conviction
earlier this month and a ban from office.
"I'm resisting! I'm not giving up," Berlusconi told
supporters on his Facebook page.
"Rest assured that I am not stepping aside, I will remain
the head of the center right. I will pursue the interests of
Italians and the country until the very end. Go forth with
Berlusconi's tax-fraud conviction came with a four-year
jail term that, due to an amnesty, was commuted to one year of
either community service or house arrest, something the
ex-premier and sitting Senator must decide in October.
The supreme Cassation Court decision also came with a
six-year ban from public office, which must be ratified in the
Senate next month before it becomes effective.
Given the center left's majority in the Upper House of
parliament, the ban is expected to be upheld.
A prominent member of Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL)
party said Monday it would sink the government if the PD votes
to eject the ex-premier.
Former Senate Speaker Renato Schifani said the ban must be
examined by the Constitutional Court before its application is
If the PD rules this out it would show a "prejudicial
attitude that can only lead to a political rupture," said
"Co-existence would be impossible", he said.
The PdL has been in an unnatural, fragile alliance with old
foes the PD for 100 days after a two-month stalemate following
inconclusive February elections.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano alluded to the
volatility of the cabinet last week when he said he was weighing
the possibility of pardoning Berlusconi, while stressing that
all convictions must be implemented.
Even if a pardon is granted, Berlusconi could still lose
his seat in the Senate.
Berlusconi loyalist and MP Daniela Santanchè said Monday
there was no way that "unelected judges" could "push Berlusconi
out as leader of the center right".
Former PD minister Cesare Damiano said Monday there would
be "no favors or political solutions" to help Berlusconi wiggle
out of his first definitive conviction in more than 20 cases,
"if not because other cases will be heard shortly".
Berlusconi's legal woes - which also include separate but
not definitive convictions for sex with an underage prostitute
and involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained
wiretap that hurt an opponent - have not dented his popularity
among the PdL faithful, who are expected to soon rally behind
the banner of the retooled Forza Italia party that was the
vehicle for his first electoral triumph in 1994.