Berlusconi pledges to stay on 'front line'
Ex-premier says will stay at helm of party even if no longer MP01 November, 20:12
The media magnate, whose centre-right People of Freedom (PdL) is in a fragile, unnatural government alliance with Premier Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) after February's inconclusive general election, also vowed to stay in the "front line" of Italian politics to battle for Italy's high tax burden to be lowered. Berlusconi says his tax-fraud conviction and other legal problems are the result of a campaign by allegedly leftwing elements in the judiciary whom he says are persecuting him for political reasons.
"I think it's right that the voters are the ones who judge us on everything, including my case, taxes, the economy and other reform programmes, and our opponents, who, if they continue like this, will live up to their reputation of being the party of taxes and handcuffs," he said in excerpts of an interview with TV journalist Bruno Vespa that will be published in a book next week. The three-time premier is furious with the PD for backing moves for him to be ejected from parliament after the tax-fraud conviction became definitive, with a vote on the floor of the Senate expected this month.
But his ability to hit back at the centre-left party appears to be limited after an attempt to scupper Letta's executive failed last month because of a mutiny by pro-government PdL members.
Berlusconi vowed to continue to lead his party - which is about to be relaunched under its former name, Forza Italia - even if he is no longer a lawmaker.
"My personal commitment is still necessary," said the 77-year-old, who is appealing against convictions for paying for sex with an underage prostitute and for involvement in the illegal publication of a wiretap and has been indicted for allegedly bribing a Senator to change political sides.
"No one can take away my right to stay at the helm of the movement I founded as long as there are millions of voters who want this," added Berlusconi, who led his party to a narrow second place in the general election with a remarkable campaign.
"If there are elections, I'd feel duty-bound to be directly involved".
He added that none of his children are attracted to the world of politics after his eldest daughter Marina again denied reports this week that she was set to take her father's place at the helm of his party.
"Marina would be able to fulfil the mission in the best way," Berlusconi said of his daughter, the head of the family holding company Fininvest.
"Everyone has seen her authority and the lion's courage she has defended me with. But (politics) is not her vocation". Tension in Italy's political arena increased this week when a Senate panel narrowly opted to for a vote on Berlusconi's ejection on the floor of the Upper House to be open, rather than a secret, as was traditional in such cases. The PD members of the panel voted for an open ballot, irking the PdL.
However, 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.