Berlusconi vows 'game not over' after ejection setback
Ex-premier says centre-left committed 'own goal'31 October, 16:24
"The game is a long way from the final whistle because the sentence that condemned me is based on falsehood and it will be reversed soon," Berlusconi said after a Senate panel narrowly opted for the floor vote to be open Wednesday.
Berlusconi is appealing against the conviction, which is definitive for Italian law after the supreme court upheld it in August, to the European Court of Human Rights. His comments were taken from an interview for a book by Italian broadcast journalist Bruno Vespa that will be published November 7. The three-time premier, 77, denied reports he was angry about the situation, saying he was incapable of this emotion, but admitted to being "worried, disappointed and bitter". The narrow decision to go for an open ballot, with seven panel members voting in favour and six against, came after weeks of tension between Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party and the PD - traditional rivals who formed a fragile government alliance in April.
Fears had been raised that some members of the PD and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S), along with enough centrists, would take advantage of the secrecy of the ballot to save Berlusconi from expulsion.
Berlusconi, who claims he is the victim of left-wing elements in the judiciary who are persecuting him for political reasons, said the PD had given itself away by voting to buck parliamentary tradition in his case - even though exceptions from the secret-ballot rule are not unprecedented. "The left's attitude is now clear to anyone with a minimum of intellection honesty," Berlusconi said.
"But they've scored an own goal. The Italian people have understood that they want to eliminate me from the political life (of Italy) forever because they consider me to be the last obstacle to their definitive taking of power".
The panel's decision to opt for an open vote on Berlusconi has given back a semblance of unity to the division-hit PdL as the whole party joined in crying foul at the decision.
Some of the so-called hawks in the PdL called on the party to break off its alliance with the PD. But the pro-government doves, who rebelled to force Berlusconi to back down on a bid to sink Letta's executive at the start of the month, have said forcing snap elections would only lead to a stalemate like the one that followed February's inconclusive general election.
This is because another vote is expected to produce a similar result, in which the PD, the PdL and M5S came to an effective three-way tie, unless the current much-criticised election law is changed.
Many pundits believe that, if Berlusconi tried to torpedo the government again, Letta would be able to garner enough support from PdL doves, led by Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, to survive.
Nevertheless, the turmoil is making it harder for Letta's grand-coalition government to focus on policy as Italy struggles to emerge from its longest recession in over two decades.