PdL in chaos after Berlusconi U-turn
Group of around 25 Senators to form breakaway group02 October, 14:55
A meeting of PdL lawmakers had agreed shortly before to vote against the motion in the unprecedented left-right government, which was cobbled together in April to end two months of deadlock after February's inconclusive general election.
The embarrassing reversal may not be enough to stop his party splitting though, after around 25 PdL Senators said they were ready to form a breakaway group when the party looked set to try to sink the government. Many more PdL Senators were reportedly intent on leaving the floor of the Senate during the vote rather than voting against the government. Berlusconi sparked a political crisis on Saturday when he ordered the PdL's ministers to leave the government led by Letta, a member of the centre-left Democratic Party. But many PdL members, including the PdL's five ministers - whose resignations were rejected by Letta - said they were not in favour of sinking the government just as Italy is showing signs of emerging from its longest recession in over two decades. "Putting together the expectations and the fact that Italy needs a government that produces institutional and structural reforms, we have decided to vote for the confidence motion, not without internal pain," Berlusconi told the Senate. It is a humiliating outcome for Berlusconi, 77, that some pundits said could bring the curtain down on his political career, although the three-time premier has frequently come back when he seemed finished in the past. Berlusconi had said he considered the "government experience over" and called for fresh elections.
"Our destinies have separated. The end," said Maria Stella Gelmini, a former education minister and Berlusconi loyalist.
"Another party is ready".
The rebellion has been led by Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who is also the PdL secretary. The rebel lawmakers even said that they will be able keep the PdL name if the split is confirmed - Berlusconi recently announced that he was launching a new party to replace the PdL which will carry its former name, Forza Italia (FI). "We have checked that the PdL name remains at the disposition of the secretary and, therefore, Alfano," said Senator Roberto Formigoni, one of the PdL rebels. "At this point we are the PdL. This is important because it says who we are and that we remain on the centre-right. We are not a rib of another party".
Berlusconi pushed the executive to the brink at the weekend after almost two months of tension following the supreme court's decision to uphold a tax-fraud conviction against him.
Berlusconi is furious that his foes-turned-alliance-partners in the PD are intent on voting in favour of him being ejected from parliament on a Senate panel and then on the floor of the Upper House following the tax-fraud verdict.
Letta said in his speech before the confidence vote that Berlusconi's legal problems should be separated from government business, with the Senate panel set to vote on the ex-premier's parliamentary status on Friday.
"Ours is a democratic republic based on the rule of law," Letta said.
"In a democratic state (court) sentences are respected, applied, while there is the untouchable right to defence, without special treatment for anyone".