Marina calls self out amid Berlusconi party turmoil
PdL-Forza Italia in danger of splitting28 October, 16:31
Media speculation had been intense that Marina Berlusconi could take over the division-hit group since her father announced Friday that he was effectively scrapping his People of Freedom (PdL) party in view of the launch of a new one under its former name, Forza Italia.
Three-time premier Silvio Berlusconi looks set to be stripped of his Senate seat next month after the supreme court upheld a tax-fraud conviction against him in August and he is ineligible to head party lists at future elections.
The party is in danger of splitting between pro-government doves, led by Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano, and the hawks who have been most vocal in threats for the party to break off its unnatural alliance with Premier Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and bring down the executive.
"I have never had, and do not have, any intention of being engaged in politics," said Marina Berlusconi, the 47-year-old chairwoman of the Berlusconi family holding company, Fininvest.
She described the reports of her being set to start a political career as "rumours and journalistic reconstructions that are far from any minimal connection with reality". "Once again I'm forced to issue a denial and in the most comprehensive way possible," she added. Many centre-right moderates said they were against moving to a resuscitated Forza Italia.
But Berlusconi pressed ahead anyway Friday at a meeting of PdL bigwigs, which Alfano and several other senior party members deserted.
There has been talk that the party could split, with the hawks going into Forza Italia and parting company with the moderates, who may form a group possibly keeping the PdL name.
A possible spark for the split could be if the moderates fail to back a threat to sink the government if Berlusconi is ejected from parliament.
The deputy premier led the doves when they staged a mutiny that forced Berlusconi to back down on a bid to scupper the left-right executive at the start of the month.
Political pundits believe that there are enough doves in Alfano's faction to keep Letta's government afloat, if Berlusconi and the hawks did try to torpedo the government again.
Alfano played down talk of a rupture Monday, denying reports the doves had started a petition to present at a national assembly of the reborn Forza Italia, scheduled for December, while at the same time recognising that there were problems to address.
"The doubt is not about the leadership of Silvio Berlusconi, nor about the name Forza Italia, which re-evokes wonderful years," Alfano said on his website.
"There are other issues that we believe should be discussed at the national assembly and we will bring them to the attention of public and our movement over the next few days". Friday's announcement by Berlusconi effectively stripped Alfano of his post as party secretary.
Berlusconi said Alfano "continues to enjoy my esteem" after Friday's meeting.
But he stressed that his faith in Alfano and the other four centre-right ministers in Letta's cabinet, all of whom are moderates, was dependant on them "keeping by the decisions of the majority of the party". The doves and hawks both believe that Berlusconi is the victim of a campaign of persecution by left-wing judges who are trying to wipe him off the political scene.
But the doves do not think the party should sink the government over Berlusconi's legal problems, as the country struggles to emerge from its longest recession in over two decades.
Berlusconi tried to bring the government down after the PD - which the PdL joined in a fragile, unnatural alliance in April to end two months of deadlock after February's inconclusive general election - backed moves for the 77-year-old to be stripped of his Senate seat after his tax-fraud conviction became definitive.
Berlusconi has requested to serve his one-year sentence - reduced from four years because of an amnesty - by doing community service, rather than house arrest. He is too old to actually go to jail.
He is also appealing against prison convictions for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and abusing his power to cover up the affair and for involvement in the publication of an illegally obtained wiretap.
Last week he was indicted for allegedly bribing a Senator to change political sides.