D'Alema calls Letta fleeting political figure
Sees bright future for centre left if govt falls23 August, 13:25
"(Premier Enrico) Letta is only a transitional leader for a temporary government with a limited programme. He will not be useful a second time. In the future I imagine Gianni Cuperlo as the party secretary and Matteo Renzi as premier," said D'Alema, referring to a PD MP and the mayor of Bologna, respectively.
Matteo Renzi is a rising star on the conservative spectrum of the PD, and is considered by many to be an independent voice within the centre-left party.
D'Alema denied that the current schism in the shaky right-left coalition government over Silvio Berlusconi's prospective ban from holding public office poses any problem from the PD's perspective.
"In the end, there will not be any crisis. If the centre right thinks of tying its own future to Berlusconi's judicial destiny, it will have to resign itself to decline without return," said D'Alema.
Letta met President Giorgio Napolitano Thursday in a last-ditch bid to avert a government breakdown, as the PD is turning a deaf ear to appeals from Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party to refrain from voting Berlusconi out of the Senate on September 9 as a consequence of his August 1 conviction for tax fraud, his first definitive sentence in almost 20 years of battles with a judiciary he claims is left-wing.
Berlusconi is insisting he must be allowed to continue as PdL leader and can only do that as a Senator. Otherwise, the PdL will pull the plug on the four-month-old administration Napolitano forced into existence after a two-month post-election impasse caused by comedian Beppe Grillo's anti-establishment 5-Star Movement's refusal to team up with the PD.
D'Alema on Thursday said Berlusconi's latest legal trouble was likely to turn some of his own against him.
"I also believe that if one goes to a vote count (on Berlusconi's ban from the Senate) in parliament, the centre right could find itself divided. If instead they want to go to (parliamentary) elections, we're ready. But I don't believe (they want elections). Berlusconi knows that we are 15 points ahead of him with Renzi as leader. And although we are specialists at losing even when we have won, this time we won't make mistakes," D'Alema added.
Renzi late last year ran and lost against former PD secretary, Pier Luigi Bersani, for the party's leadership - a spot that would have positioned him for premiership in case of parliament election victory last February.
Renzi has broader appeal to moderates on Italy's centre right than Bersani, whose leadership is widely believed to have undermined the PD's results in February's inconclusive national elections.
As for the fate of Berlusconi, and whether he will avert his judicial sentence and a ban from office, D'Alema believed that this time there was no way out.
"Berlusconi will have no other escape than accepting the sentence and thus the conviction. He will go to house arrest and then social services," predicted D'Alema, who warned that Berlusconi could nevertheless continue his political career as a charismatic outsider, like the Genoese comedian Beppe Grillo, whose M5S candidates won a quarter of the popular vote in February.
The media tycoon "will be able to continue to do politics even outside of parliament, as Grillo shows," D'Alema said.
"(Grillo) isn't in parliament because he can't be. He's an guilty of a heinous crime - (vehicular) manslaughter. Thus Berlusconi, also as an offender, will arrive second. And yet both of them have millions of votes. Because millions of Italians hate politicians but love offenders," D'Alema concluded.