(By Christopher Livesay)
(ANSA) - Rome, September 17 - Tension was thick in Rome
Tuesday ahead of a Senate panel vote that could spell the end of
ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's political career, as well as the
end of the shaky government.
A Senate panel is set to vote on Wednesday on whether to
strip the three-time premier and media magnate of his seat in
the Upper House and comply with a new anti-corruption rule that
kicked in after Italy's supreme Cassation Court found him guilty
last month for tax fraud, his first ever binding conviction in
nearly 20 years of legal entanglements with magistrates he
claims are left-wing and biased.
Berlusconi's party, the centre-right People of Freedom, has
vowed to pull its vital support from the executive it co-governs
with the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) if Senators from the
PD vote to ban Berlusconi from office.
Uncertainty was stirred even more by a video message
Berlusconi has reportedly prepared announcing his party was
withdrawing its support from Premier Enrico Letta's left-right
Sources speculate that Berlusconi has prepared two videos
ready for release.
One of these was reportedly on his party, which is set to
be revamped and revert to its previous name, Forza Italia.
The other was thought to feature criticism of the alleged
left-wing magistrates Berlusconi says are behind his conviction,
allegedly as part of a plot to remove him from the political
scene, and to reveal whether he intended to sink Letta's
executive or not.
One of these two videos was expected to be sent to
broadcasters Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday's crunch meeting of the
But according to fresh speculation, there may only be one
video, shot at his home near Milan Monday, and Berlusconi may be
considering re-recording it as he was not entirely satisfied
with the result.
The new video is expected to be released Wednesday and
reportedly does not refer to the future of the government.
Pre-empting the possible broadcast of either video,
protesters assembled outside the headquarters of State
broadcaster RAI in Rome, calling for the "propaganda" not to be
shown on public airwaves.
Meanwhile, Berlusconi is reportedly torn between the advice
of hawks and doves in the PdL.
The hawks say Berlusconi should scupper the executive and
try to provoke fresh elections.
The doves say provoking the end of the administration would
have negative consequences for the country, which is trying to
emerge from its longest recession in over two decades, as well
as for the PdL and for Berlusconi himself and his business
Regardless, the loss of his seat appears imminent.
Former justice minister Paola Severino on Tuesday called on
parliament to apply the anti-corruption law named after her to
Berlusconi, arguing the legitimacy of the law was at stake.
"We were all in agreement" in the Mario Monti government
"when, after a long and detailed process, the law was passed,"
she said. "When you pass a law, you believe in what you are
doing. Now its application is the responsibility of the